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.

Morning Skate: Tempered expectations for Bolts' rookie Sergachev

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Morning Skate: Tempered expectations for Bolts' rookie Sergachev

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while simply shaking my head at David Price. What a typically soft, boorish ballplayer not meant for a big market where more is expected of those wearing the Red Sox uniform.

*There are tempered expectations for rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev as he gets things going with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

*Keith Yandle believes that Dale Tallon being back in charge of the Florida Panthers is going to bring unity and solidarity to the Panthers once again.

*Kevin Shattenkirk believes that the New York Rangers are right on the cusp of challenging for a Stanley Cup title.

*Here 20 thoughts from the just-concluded Chicago Blackhawks prospect camp, where there’s some pretty strong, young talent.

*Even as the highest-paid player in the NHL, Connor McDavid is underpaid for what he brings to the table, says Ron MacLean.

*Interesting look at the Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog situation in Colorado, where both players have watched their performance fall off a bit. This is why I’d be very nervous about giving up the farm to trade for either of these players if I’m the Bruins. The jury is out on whether they’re in decline as players, or if it’s simply the mess in Colorado getting them down.  

*For something completely different: What a sweet interaction between "Wonder Woman" Gal Gadot and a young, emotional fan all decked out in WW gear.  

 

Spooner, Bruins nearly $2 million apart in arbitration figures

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Spooner, Bruins nearly $2 million apart in arbitration figures

The figures and briefs are in for the Bruins and Ryan Spooner for their arbitration hearing Wednesday, but both sides are still hoping that a deal can be reached prior to it. The Bruins have submitted a one-year contract offer for $2 million. Spooner’s camp countered with $3.85 million, creating a sizeable gap of almost $2 million between the two.

Spooner, 25, has averaged 12 goals and 44 points the past two seasons with the B’s, including 35 power-play points while working the half-wall for a Boston PP that’s been ranked seventh overall two seasons in a row.

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Spooner is coming off a two-year contract worth $1.95 million and his is a complicated situation for the Black and Gold. Spooner holds significant value as a trade piece and has been an important part of a very effective power play, but he also finished the playoffs as a healthy scratch after going quietly the past few months of the season.

Spooner was one of the major pieces discussed in trade talks with the Minnesota Wild around the draft prior to the Wild shipping Marco Scandella to the Buffalo Sabres and he's been involved in trade discussions with several teams the past couple of years.

The Bruins have prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson waiting in the wings if/when the B’s decided to spin Spooner to another team, but they also enjoy his speed and playmaking when he’s on his game. There’s clearly a scenario where the Bruins start the season with Spooner installed as their third-line center and perhaps explore more trade discussions while seeing if a full season under Bruce Cassidy can unlock his significant offensive potential.

If that's still in the plan, they’d be wise to come to an agreement and avoid the hearing Wednesday where they’d ostensibly be bad-mouthing a player they’d want back on their team. The Bruins have the right to walk away from Spooner should he be awarded the full $3.85 million by the arbiter. Still, it’s hard to believe they’d do that given that he’s a homegrown asset with trade value.

The feeling at this address is that there’s a deal to be made between the two sides for something around the $3 million mark. That’s something that would be worthwhile for the Bruins if they have any designs on continuing on with Spooner.