Kessel family affair comes to Boston

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Kessel family affair comes to Boston

WILMINGTON, Mass. It should be an interesting scene at TD Garden Saturday night with Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs invading Causeway Street for the second half of a home-and-home series for Northeast Division bragging rights.

The Bs have jumped out to a commanding 3-0 regular season record over Toronto this season, and outscored the Leafs by a 19-5 margin in those three blowout wins. So theres a natural motivational element if youre wearing a Toronto sweater in addition to keeping their current playoff pace.

But theres also an added twist: the Leafs arrive in Boston on the traditional fatherson trip that many NHL teams embark on during the regular season.

So Kessels dad is expected to be part of the paternal entourage traveling with the team, and could be subjected to the same Thank you, Kessel chants that have become part and parcel with Toronto trips to Boston since Tyler Seguin landed in the Bs laps with the No. 2 overall pick.

Kessel had his best game of the season against the Bruins on Wednesday night with an assist, and is still the leading point-getter (32) and goal-scorer (16) in the NHL this season.

He also leads the league in All-Star voting after his memorably uncomfortable turn as Mr. Irrelevant in last years first annual All-Star team fantasy draft amid the All-Star weekend festivities in Carolina.

But the Bruins and the bruising defensive style of Zdeno Chara continue to pound on Kessel despite his higher standing in the league this time around. Kessel has been beaten down to the tune of three team losses, one point and a minus-5 in the three games between the two Northeast Division rivals this year, and its more of the same domination by Boston that No. 81 has endured for the last three seasons.

We prepare for the Leafs just like any other team. We know theyre going to be better, so we need to just focus on our game in order to beat them, said Chara, when asked about shutting down Kessel and his Toronto cohorts. Anytime were playing with desperation we have a much better chance of winning hockey games.

Kessel now has two goals and is a minus-12 in 15 games against the Bruins since getting dealt to Toronto three years ago. Those are numbers that scream out operation shutdown, but Claude Julien said the Bruins arent doing anything exotic to bottle up the speedy Kessel.

Its the same old menacing physicality in the corner and stifling defense down the center of the ice employed by the Bruins that has continuously turned Kessel from peerless to clawless no matter what he does against the rest of the NHL.

Ill be very honest with you. We havent said anything special about Phil Kessel, said Claude Julien. Its one of those things where if hes on the ice were aware of what hes done, but we handle every team the same way. Whether its Crosby or others, theyre all treated the same.

We certainly know Phil well, but he still got an assist the other night on a great pass. Its more about a five-man unit than it is about one guy watching one other guy. So far weve been pretty successful and thats a good thing because hes off to a great start.

So what could happen with Kessels papa potentially in the house this weekend?

If the word gets out to enough fans in the Garden stands then perhaps there will be a Thank you, Mr. Kessel! sing-song chant to go along with the customary one if the Bruins are once again holding a comfortable lead in the third period Saturday night.

That would be just another chapter for Kessel in the book of misery against Boston since he left behind Black and Gold.

Bruins defense struggles in 5-1 loss to Red Wings

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Bruins defense struggles in 5-1 loss to Red Wings

BOSTON – The Bruins are clearly getting the kinks out a couple of games into the preseason.

The B’s defense struggled all night, and allowed 39 shots on net and five goals in a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden. The loss provides plenty of video material for the Boston coaching staff to look at over the next few days.

The Bruins actually started off well in the opening half of the first period, but then the bottom fell out when they couldn’t cash in on a power play chance. That led to a Ryan Spooner face-off penalty and then the Wings scoring on the power play to get things going. The Winged Wheels then scored on a Drew Miller-to-Steve Ott connection 19 seconds later to double Detroit’s lead, and really showed some collapse for the Bruins group on the ice Wednesday night.

Impressive youngster Austin Czarnik scored in the second period after a nice feed from Ryan Spooner crashing to the net, but that was the lone highlight for the Black and Gold against a Detroit team that was ready to go. Luke Glendening scored on a play right in front of the net in the second period as well, and Anthony Mantha made it a 4-0 lead for Detroit until Czarnik cracked the score sheet with his first goal of the preseason.

Drew Miller added a goal in the third period when Linus Arnesson vacated the front of the net to leave it wide open for the NHL veteran, and that was a pretty symbolic play for a Bruins group that never got a defensive foothold all evening. 

Mueller aims to take advantage of opportunity in tonight's Bruins-Wings game

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Mueller aims to take advantage of opportunity in tonight's Bruins-Wings game

BRIGHTON -- Tonight’s Bruins-Red Wings game against the Red Wings should be a big chance for training-camp invite Peter Mueller as he readies to skate in a second straight exhibition game after a quiet night in the opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

The former 22-goal scorer with the Coyotes felt he was “solid” and “held his own” while not getting any shots on neta againsy Columbus. The veteran winger feels like he’s again starting to pick up the NHL pace after spending the last three years in Europe, and that’s mandatory to start making plays. 

“It was a good adjustment, but hopefully tonight I show a little more skill, a few more pucks to the net and create some more offense,” said Mueller. “I would rather play in most of the [exhibition] games, to be honest with you, and to get in-game-like scenarios and prepare yourself for each and every game. In my position I’m happy that I’m playing tonight and hopefully I can keep trying to impress the people [making decisions].”

The 26-year-old former first-round pick will be in a favorable spot, skating in a possible third-line, right-wing audition with Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey. He'll also serve as another established player in a more veteran-laden lineup Wednesday night vs. the Winged Wheels at TD Garden. With Frankie Vatrano out for the next three months, these are the kind of chances Mueller needs to knock out of the park if he wants to fend off younger competition for one of those B’s roster spots up front. 

“It definitely favors the type of game I want to play,” said Mueller, when asked about the chance to skate in a spot with Spooner and Beleskey that he would likely fill whre he to crack the NHL roster. “With two skill guys, hopefully we can create some chemistry and some offense early and obviously that helps with the flow of the game. Hopefully I can just showcase my skills and the work ethic that I’m trying to bring to the team. Overall, hopefully we have a good game tonight.”

Sean Kuraly is also playing in his second straight exhibition, and will move over to the left wing skating with Austin Czarnik and left wing Zachary Senyshyn in what amounts to a kid line for the Bruins. One would expect the same goaltending rotation in this game, with Malcolm Subban getting the first two periods and Daniel Vladar getting the game’s final 20 minutes. Here are the line combos and D-pairings according to the rushes during morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena:
 
Beleskey-Spooner-Mueller
Kuraly-Czarnik-Senyshyn
Gabrielle-Moore-Ferlin
Blidh-Acciari-Hickman
 
Grzelcyk-McQuaid
Lauzon-C. Miller
Arnesson-Casto
 
Subban
Vladar