Report: Leafs plan … nothing for Kessel’s Toronto return


The best thing about teams generating tribute videos to returning former players isn’t the music. It’s not about the great highlights, either.

Really, the greatest thing is when those token gestures don’t happen.

Keep in mind this is by no means official, and the Toronto Maple Leafs could easily put together a simple bit if they want to.

Still, it’s awfully interesting from a high school drama standpoint that the Maple Leafs have nothing planned for Phil Kessel‘s return with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, according to Damien Cox’s report in Sportsnet’s latest “Headlines” segment.

A little frosty, right?

Obviously this is a minor detail, yet it’s interesting, especially as the Maple Leafs were the ones who traded Kessel out of town (rather than other rare instances in which a team might feel slighted by a free agent departure).

One would guess that Toronto’s fans will give him a boo-laced tribute, anyway, though.

Kessel scores overtime winner versus Predators


The Pittsburgh Penguins’ offense still isn’t as productive as expected, but they’ve been good enough lately.

Chris Kunitz netted his first goal of the season and Phil Kessel scored in overtime in a 2-1 victory against the Nashville Predators tonight.

Although Kessel’s marker wasn’t without its controversy as it appeared that Nashville wanted a tripping call against the Penguins:

It’s the Penguins’ fourth victory in five games. Due to their still somewhat anemic offensive showing — they have 13 goals in eight games — three of those wins have been by just one goal. That’s been accomplished by leaning on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, as the Penguins did again on Saturday.

Fleury turned aside 31 of 32 shots in his eighth straight start of the campaign. Former teammate James Neal, who has gotten off to a hot start, was the only one to beat him tonight.

Pittsburgh is still a modest 4-4-0 going into Wednesday’s game against the Washington Capitals. By contrast, Nashville is a commanding 6-1-1 this season. The Predators will look to shake this loss off Wednesday night versus San Jose.

Kessel isn’t what the Penguins expected


What you see from an athlete during an interview isn’t always an accurate representation of who that person really is.

Sometimes that squeaky clean corporate-friendly athlete has a dark side. Alternatively, someone others believed to be a “cancer” might be anything but.

As Pittsburgh Penguins players told TSN, Phil Kessel has defied expectations about his attitude – in a good way.

“Just that he tells guys that he’ll beat ‘em at whatever sport they pick,” Chris Kunitz said with a laugh. “I think the confidence is obviously high. He’s a guy that likes to compete and be competitive at anything he does so that’s probably why he’s so good at so many things.”

It’s not just a more-fiery-than-expected demeanor, either.

Kunitz is surprised by Kessel’s “good-hearted manner to every part of his day.”

One could see some of his sense of humor when cameras picked up on his interplay with former teammate and roommate Tyler Bozak. Kessel rolled his eyes at Bozak’s video game playing and generally seemed to have a snarky sense of humor.

The rest of article is good stuff, full of more-expected revelations like “hey, Kessel can pass really well, too.”

Considering all the rumors that floated around in Toronto, the great attitude part might be even more important than the creative playmaking.

Crosby’s slump matches career-worst, but Pens win Kessel’s reunion vs. Leafs


Phil Kessel was held off the scoresheet in his first game against Toronto since being traded Pittsburgh and Sidney Crosby has now tied his career-worst with his five-game point slump.

That wasn’t enough for the Maple Leafs though as they still suffered a 2-1 loss to the Penguins.

Evgeni Malkin played a big role in the Penguins’ victory when he collected the puck in the Maple Leafs’ zone early in the first period and carried it all the way to the other end of the ice before firing it past goalie Jonathan Bernier:

Olli Maatta made it 2-0 less than a minute later, making it look like Bernier might be yanked quickly from this start after lasting just 20:20 minutes in his last game. Tonight’s story proved to be different as Bernier calmed down and went on to make 31 saves.

The Maple Leafs were never able to reverse the damage though. This is the third time in their five-game old season that they have been held to one goal or less. In addition to no longer having Kessel’s services, Toronto was also without his former linemate Tyler Bozak (lower body) tonight.

Despite the star power its roster features, Pittsburgh has been struggling offensively as well. The Penguins haven’t scored more than two goals in a single game, but they have still managed to win their last two contests.

Pittsburgh will look to extend that streak on Tuesday against Florida while Crosby tries to avoid setting a career-low with his slump.

Bozak (lower body) won’t face former linemate Kessel

AP Photo

Phil Kessel‘s longtime linemate Tyler Bozak will not be on the ice for his reunion against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.

Bozak, who sustained a lower-body injury during Friday’s contest has been ruled out of tonight’s game. Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock isn’t sure if his injury is serious though, per TSN’s Jonas Siegel.

Mark Arcobello will draw back into the lineup as a result. He played in Toronto’s first three games, but was scratched on Friday.

Prior to Kessel being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the offseason, Bozak and Kessel typically made up two-thirds of Toronto’s first line. In fact, Bozak’s total five-on-five ice time with Kessel during his tenure in Toronto was more than twice as much as the next highest forward.

Related: Kessel on playing against Leafs: ‘It’s going to be strange’