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Phil Will Thrill Again

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
The equipment bag of Boston Bruins forward Philip Kessel rests on a bench with other players' equipment bags in the Bruins' locker room Monday, May 18, 2009, in Boston. The Bruins were eliminated in overtime of Game 7 by the Carolina Hurricanes in the NHL hockey Eastern Conference semifinals. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
BOSTON -- S-U-R-G-E-R-Y. Just the letters by themselves are scary.

But, as per his usual program when adversity is concerned, Boston Bruins forward Phil Kessel shrugged off his impending shoulder surgery with an actual (but probably painful) shrug and his usual staccato chuckle.

“[Chuckle] Yeah, it’s going to be a weird offseason,” said Kessel on Monday. “Obviously, I have to have shoulder surgery, so I’ll be out for a while.”

Yesterday, B's general manager Peter Chiarelli announced that Kessel underwent a successful procedure to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder.

“It’s a long one,” said Kessel prior to the proceedure. “I think it’s a little more than [Zdeno Chara’s] was last year.

“But what can you do.”

The surgery was performed by Dr. Peter Asnis and Dr. J.P. Warner at Mass General Hospital, and will force Kessel to miss approximately six months.

In hockey terms (and even in twenty-something terms) six months is a loooong time.

“I tore it back in Columbus (March 10th), when I fell into the boards,” explained Kessel during the club's final media availability of the season. “So I will be out for six months.

“I knew it was bad the whole time.

“But you have to play through that kind of stuff,” he said.

Play through?

“You try to [put it out of your mind],” said Kessel. “Obviously it’s hard.

“It’s not a little injury. It’s kind of a big one.

“It’s tough, but what are you going to do?” he said.

Well, if you are Kessel, you go out and finish your best NHL season to date.

He established career highs in goals, assists and points this year after tallying a team-best 36 goals, 24 assists and 60 points in 70 games.

The talented forward also became the club’s first 30-goal scorer since 2005-2006 and had the longest point streak in the NHL this season after tallying a point in 18 consecutive games from November 13 - December 21, 2008 (a 14-14-28 line during the streak).

“You have a [choice], you know? You can get surgery or you can play through it,” repeated Kessel on Monday. “I elected to play through it and try and help my team.

“It hurts. It’s not an easy thing – it’s painful. I can’t really do much with the [injured] side of my body. So, a lot of times, playing out there hurt.”

It hurt so much that Kessel tried to wear a brace.

“But I tried it and it hurt it worse,” said Kessel. “So I went [without], so it was painful, but I tried to do the best I could.

The best he could was pretty good as Kessel appeared in all 11 postseason contests for the Bruins and contributed six goals and five assists.

However, don’t talk to Kessel about personally successful playoff numbers.

“It’s disappointing that we finished the way we did,” said Kessel. “I thought we had a pretty good year, but we just didn’t get it done in the end.”

The just-finished campaign was Kessel’s third in the NHL. Just 21, he was selected by the Bruins in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. In 222 career games played, he has compiled 66-60-126 totals in “The Show.”

Boston Bruins' Phil Kessel celebrates his second-period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of an NHL Eastern Conference semifinal hockey series in Boston on Sunday, May 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
“I thought I played pretty well,” he said of this past season. “You can always do more. You can always improve your game. But I thought, overall, that it was a pretty good year and you can always try and build on that next year.”

Asked if the prospect of surgery was scary, Kessel just shrugged again.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” said Kessel of the original prognosis. “You know you are not going to be back until [after the season starts], but there’s nothing you can do.”

However, if Boston’s budding sniper sticks with his rehabilitation program, good things are in the cards. Kessel, a restricted free agent who said his first inclination is to return to Boston next year, predicted good things.

“I think we had a good team this year,” he said. “I think we did pretty well.

“You know, we had a pretty good run – but we just fell a little short.”
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