‘I’ll be ready to start the first game,’ says Kessel following offseason hand surgery

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After winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career, proving a point to his critics at the same time, Phil Kessel underwent hand surgery this summer.

That certainly put any chance of his appearance at the World Cup of Hockey for Team USA on ice, after he was initially snubbed from their lineup. As for the beginning of the 2016-17 NHL regular season, Kessel is optimistic he’ll be good to go when it starts next month.

“I’ll obviously be out there skating in camp,” said Kessel, as per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I’ll progress as it goes. But I’ll be ready to start the first game of the year. … (The hand) feels a lot better now than it did last year.”

Yes, according to Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, Kessel had been dealing with that injured hand for the entire season.

But Kessel’s latest comments represent good news, obviously, for the Penguins. It could be bad news for opposing goalies once the scoring forward gets up to pace.

Kessel scored 26 goals last season — his first in Pittsburgh after he was traded there from Toronto last summer. He followed that up with a 10-goal, 22-point playoff performance that had him in the running for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

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