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Game Day: Maple Leafs vs. Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
6:45 p.m.

The B's lines...

Tonight's in-game live blog is up and running. Click the link to the right  to join -------->

6:31 p.m.
During his pregame media availability, Claude Julien talked about his sitting Hunwick.

"I think Matt’s hasn’t played as well as he’d like to and as well as we know he can," said Julien. "It’s more of one of those things that we need to continue to work with him.

"He’s really trying, he’s just struggling a little bit with his confidence and somewhere along the way you need to give a guy who deserves a chance [time] to play as well.

"So we’re going to work with him and I’m sure that when Matt finds his game, [like] we’ve seen him at his best last year, he can be a pretty good player, but he’s struggling right now with confidence and losing battles and those kind of things that we need to keep trying to get him to get better," he said.

6:00 p.m.
It looks like Johnny Boychuk is probably going to get some time on the Boston blueline tonight.

Coach Julien confirmed as much just a few moments ago, calling the near certain choice to leave Matt Hunwick off his lineup card a "coach's decision."

No word on the goalie yet.

5:27 p.m.
Double Nickel in Da House
"It was actually pretty good getting a couple games in," said Johnny Boychuk to bostonbruinsTV when he arrived at the Garden less than an hour ago. "We won both, and there were a couple of plays that I wish I didn't do, but I haven't played in a while, so I guess that's acceptable.

There was some rust, but it did wear off.

"Maybe in the first period [of the first game], and then a couple times throughout the second game," he said. "But overall, I felt great.

"I think I played probably close to 30 minutes each night. And there was one shift -- I think it was three and a half minutes.

"We got caught out on the PK," added Boychuk with a chuckle. "So that one, I just stood in front of the net.

"I was pretty tired [chuckle]."

Boychuk said his legs were fine and that he wasn't sure if he would get into the game versus the Maple Leafs tonight.

"I guess we'll see after warmups," he said.

The Bruins purpose for sending Boychuk down was simple -- conditioning.

"They just said to go down there and get back to your game, because you haven't played in a while. And I was fine with that because I hadn't played in a while. Then when I got called up...I was getting on the bus to Portland and they were like, 'Okay, you're going back up. Go get your stuff.'

"Okay!," said Johnny.

What was the biggest issue for Boychuk after not playing for so long?

"I think it was just getting into the game and getting everthing back together, back in order and getting used to playing again," said the AHL all-star.

Noting Boychuk's success in Providence, One member of the media asked, "Did it feel good being back?"

"Yah, it did," said Boychuk. "I got to play a couple of games and I got to play power play and penalty kill -- all situations -- and I scored last night and felt great."

2:25 p.m.
In terms of the possibility of the Boston crowd's vociferous reaction to Phil Kessel's reappearance, the gathered media asked Mike Komisarek, who has had a similar experience in Montreal, what advice he would give his new teammate.

"Just not to take it personally," said Komisarek. "Go out there, have fun.

"He’s been on a tear here, and he’s been a huge part of our success lately. He is going to be focused...[and] once the game starts I think you sort of block everything out and you’re worrying about what goes on, on that ice.

"But with the crowd and stuff like that, you notice it at first but once the game starts you sort of block it all out," he said.

So you do hear it?

"You hear it but it doesn’t really affect you," he said. "It’s a part of sports. It’s a great thing.

"We’re both college hockey players and I think we’ve heard worse than that and more insulting things than a few boos, so it’s all in good nature and as long as you don’t take it personally and have fun with it it’s really not that big of a deal."

The basic philosophy is simple.

"I mean you must have been doing something right if they boo ya," said Komisarek. "So don’t take it personally."

12:29 p.m.
Rinkside video, featuring Kessel and Komisarek, is up on bostonbruinsTV.

12:21 p.m.
As seen on NESN...
Julien. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
The Boston Bruins were not available this morning, but based on my viewing of NESN's postgame show last night, I am not sure we would have gotten much that we could use today, anyway.

When Naoko Funayama asked Claude Julien about his thoughts following the Canadiens drubbing of the Bruins, Julien didn't mince words.

"Well we just didn’t have anything going tonight at all from any point of view," he said to the NESN cameras. "Our power play just wasn’t there tonight.

"All our players, I just don’t think we really played well as a team. I thought individually we all struggled. I think it was just one of those games where we couldn’t get anything going and we were terrible all around."

And about tonight, Julien was unequivocal in his belief that the only good thing about Friday was that there was another game on Saturday.

"Well, I think that’s the only positive thing," he said. "We get a chance to redeem ourselves right away tomorrow night, but we’ve got a Toronto team...that’s played really well as of late and we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us."

12:15 p.m.
Phil Speaks
Kessel was caught outside the locker room this morning and was queried as to his favorite moment in Boston.

“I think it was…game six, the first year of playoffs,” he said. “It was [versus] Montreal, yeah.

“The whole building was going nuts and it was a back and forth game and we ended up getting the 5-4 [win].”

Phil was also asked if the Bruins knowing him so well help them deal with his game with the Maple Leafs.

“Well, I obviously I think with video and everything a lot of teams know what you do and stuff like that," said Kessel. "So, I’m just going to approach the team no differently and hopefully I’ll create some room for the other guys."

What are Phil's expectations about his reception in the Garden?

“Oh yeah, I expect to get booed, but whatever,” he said with a staccato chuckle. “I don’t [get bothered] that much anymore.

"I used to care more about that stuff before I went through my whole ordeal but now it just rolls off me.”

11:39 a.m.
We have video from the Toronto locker room going up soon. Mike Komisarek and Phil Kessel spoke, but did not skate.

Look for that in bit...

11:33 a.m.
Toronto has been on the ice for a bit. No signs of Kessel on the ice.

10:58 a.m.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel tries to put the puck past Buffalo Sabres' Andrej Sekera, left, and Ryan Millar during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto on Monday, Nov. 30, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Chris Young)
There's no morning skate or media availability for Boston this morning.

Toronto takes the ice at 11:30 a.m.

Yesterday, Phil Kessel spoke to the media (and from the visiting locker room at the TD Garden.

"I played here three years, a good three years," he said. "I enjoyed playing here, I enjoyed the fans, the city.

"It didn’t work out, but I liked it here."

Kessel was asked if his experience in Boston this weekend was similar to his return to Minnesota after he left the Gophers.

"I don’t know if you can compare it to that; that’s a little different. It’s a different level here and the fans in college are a little different than pro fans," he said.

And what is he feeling about tonight's contest and having to play former teammates?

"To tell you the truth it’s obviously a little different than a normal game, but [you have to] approach it the same way as a normal game and go out there and play hard and try to win a hockey game," said the former Bruins forward. "Like I said, yeah, obviously I love Boston. I love this city.

"The fans, they were great to me. The organization treated me great...unfortunately they went in a different direction and it didn’t work out."

Kessel's story differs from that of his former team.

"I don’t know. Obviously, I never asked for a trade so that never happened and like I said I loved it here and they went in a different direction," said Kessel.

Asked what he thinks the fan reaction would be on Saturday night, Kessel was frank.

"Well, obviously I’ll probably get booed or whatever, but I understand," he said. "It’s part of the game."

Much had been made, in both cities, about the teaming of Kessel and playmaker Marc Savard while Phil was with the Bruins, and whether the pair would suffer after being broken up.

"Savvy is a great passer and I enjoyed playing with him, but here playing with Stage [Matt Stajan] and Pony [Alexei Ponikarovsky] we seem to be clicking pretty well right now and things are going alright," he said.

Phil was also asked about his work with the Boston coaching staff and whether they had helped improve his game.

"Well, I mean I don’t think I’ve really ever been a minus player in my career," he said. "Obviously, I’m more of an offensive player, but I don’t think too many teams score on lines that I’m playing [on]."

Just by way of comparison, Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli talked about trading Kessel on Sept. 19: "...we negotiated a little bit, but in essence, in the beginning of July, this player said that he wanted to be traded, he did not want to play in Boston for a variety of reasons. So that puts a different dynamic on the whole series of events and certainly...I didn’t want to tell anyone at the time that this was the case because we still wanted the player."
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