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Kessel Will Play Against Devils

by Angela Stefano / Boston Bruins
Boston, MA - Boston Bruins forward Phil Kessel will return to the lineup for tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

After being sidelined with mono for the last six games, head coach Claude Julien gave the forward the “green light” this morning.

“I was hoping that’s what I was going to get,” said a beaming Kessel after this morning’s pregame skate.  “I was told the other day that I was fine, so I’m just looking forward to getting back in it.”

The potential for spleen damage because of hard hits is what keeps players with mono off the ice, but Kessel, who said he wasn’t “feeling like himself” about a month before he was officially diagnosed, swears he’s back to his old self.

“Now, I feel good again, normal,” he said after practice on Wednesday.  “Before, it wasn’t the same, so I’m back to how I was.”

For Kessel, the worst part wasn’t feeling sick or tired, though.  It was not being able to be on the ice during games.

“I hate watching games; I can’t even stand it,” he said.  “You always want to be out there, able to play, and you want to help the team out, so it’s not fun.”

Although Kessel’s been working out off-ice during his absence, not playing for six games can cause problems with a player’s on-ice timing.

“That’s what we tried to do with him at the end of practice – work a little bit on his skills and handling the puck,” said Julien, hoping to ensure a quick transition back into the game for the young forward who, when at the top of his game, is a force to be reckoned with.

“He puts [defenses] on their heels when he uses his speed properly, and when [Marc Savard]’s able to find him on the fly…that’s where his strength lies,” Julien said.  “He’s got that quick release that everybody knows about, and he often catches goaltenders off guard a little bit, so hopefully again he shows us that kind of ability tonight.”

Kessel’s confident he’s pretty much up to speed already.

“I’m just trying to help the team any way I can tonight,” he said.  “I’ve been working out, but, obviously, you just have to get back into it.

“I’m just looking forward to playing…and having some fun.”

Coach Julien, too, is looking forward to some fun, now that the Bruins lineup, once again, looks like it should.  Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference, and Milan Lucic returned for Tuesday night’s game, and Michael Ryder, as well as Kessel, will be back tonight.

“I thought our guys handled adversity fairly well – probably not always the greatest games as far as what our expectations are, but we always found ways to win,” he said.  “You hope that we take advantage of having some healthy guys in the lineup tonight.”
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