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Kessel isn’t what the Penguins expected

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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

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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

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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’

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

Phil Kessel‘s time in Toronto was memorable to say the least. While playing for the Leafs, the sniper endured some highs and lows, but mostly lows.

From a local writer complaining about his daily hot dog intake to the first round collapse in Game 7 of the 2013 playoffs against Boston, Kessel has seen and heard it all.

Being under the microscope in Toronto definitely took its toll on Kessel, but that didn’t stop him from leading the team in scoring all six years he was there.

On Saturday, Kessel will face his former team for the first time since they traded him to the Penguins last off-season.

After Pittsburgh’s morning skate, the winger did admit that he’s expecting it to be weird.

Coming into this season, many predicted that Kessel would have a breakout season playing with Sidney Crosby. Through four games that hasn’t been the case.

The 28-year-old has just one goal and one assist in his first four games with the Pens, but he’s confident he and his teammates will turn things around.

“It’s been good,” said Kessel. “We’ve been getting a lot of chances but we’re just not getting anything to go in the net so far, right? It’s going to take time to improve and we’ll get it going here.”

Tonight’s game should be interesting, but his return to the Air Canada Center on Oct. 31 will generate even more attention.

 

 

 

Video: Kessel scores his first goal with Penguins

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After being shutout in their season opener, the Pittsburgh Penguins got on the board early in the second period of tonight’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. Appropriately, it was Phil Kessel that struck first.

Rather than being the result of a fancy play with Sidney Crosby, Kessel scored by knocking the puck away from Coyotes captain Shane Doan and then firing a wrister past Mike Smith.

Acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs over the summer in a blockbuster trade, the expectation is that uniting one of the best snipers in the game with arguably the league’s best forward in Sidney Crosby will make them one of the most dangerous duos. That made the Penguins’ inability to score in its opener against Dallas on Thursday all the more jarring, even though they obviously can’t be judged based solely off of a single game.

Kessel’s goal didn’t immediately reverse Pittsburgh’s fortunes though though. While he was able to tie the game, Arizona’s Jordan Martinook retook the lead just 1:12 minutes later and that 2-1 edge persisted until the second intermission.