The Toronto Maple Leafs' three-game road trip to Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver will be important for a team that has won three of their last five and is trying to climb their way back to 500, but for one player, it will mean a little more.
Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf will be returning to Calgary for the first time since he was dealt to Toronto last season.
"I'm looking forward to the whole trip," said Phaneuf. "Growing up in Edmonton, getting to play there, see family, see friends, that's always special for me to play in that building. I always enjoyed it. And then going to Calgary with all the history there, it's going to be a special night too. I haven't been there since being traded and I had a lot of real good times there."
Phaneuf was traded to the Leafs alongside forward Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie in exchange for forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, and Jamal Mayers, and defenceman Ian White midway through last season.
Despite Phaneuf's excitement, Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said he could be in for a rough reception from the fans in Western Canada.
"I was booing Dion today because I think he's going to hear it," Wilson said in jest. "He's going to hear it in all three places I would expect."
The most booing will likely occur in Calgary, where Phaneuf spent the first four and a half years of his career. Despite his joking, Wilson said that he hopes fans will remember all the good things Phaneuf did for the team that drafted him ninth overall in 2003.
"Hopefully (the booing) doesn't happen. He gave a lot of great years in Calgary and I think the fans appreciate what he's done."
"I don't know how the reaction's going to be," said Phaneuf. "Like I said a couple days ago, I never asked to be moved out of there, it's part of the business. I have no hard feelings, I enjoyed my time there in the city."
While Phaneuf has said all the right things leading up to his return to Calgary, some of his teammates aren't buying his easy-going approach.
"I know Dion's obviously, probably - I don't know what he said - but maybe a little nervous or excited at the same time to go back there," said Leafs forward Colby Armstrong. "Hopefully we can get that win for him."
Although the west coast swing will be special for Phaneuf, the 25-year-old defenceman said the team's main focus has to stay on playing hockey.
"It's a big road trip for our team and our focus, first and foremost, is in Edmonton," said Phaneuf, who has an assist in two games since returning from a leg injury. "They've got a young team that's playing very well. They gave it to us last time so we definitely remember that and we have to play a lot better against a team that's playing very well."
The Leafs open their road trip in Edmonton Tuesday night before travelling to Calgary on Thursday and finishing up in Vancouver on Saturday.