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Kessel, Seguin downplay first head-to-head meeting

by Shawn P. Roarke
Boston forward Tyler Seguin forever will be linked with Phil Kessel, the biggest piece of plunder to date in the blockbuster trade last season that sent the high-scoring Kessel to Toronto for a bounty of draft picks.

Seguin was the first of those picks, taken at No. 2 in the 2010 Entry Draft.

Thursday, the two players meet on the ice at TD Garden for the first of what should be many Northeast Division encounters between the two young stars. Finally, the hypothetical comparisons that have been bandied about since it became clear Seguin would fall to Boston at No. 2 this past spring can begin to give way to empirical facts from on-ice comparisons.

Seguin suggested Thursday morning, however, that the comparisons can -- and should -- wait.

"Right now I don't think my team or anybody in this business is going to really compare us -- or think that they can," Seguin told CSN New England. "I'm going into my seventh game in my first NHL season and he's been around for a couple of years. It's tough to compare, but I think we're going to both go out there and not worry about one player. We'll worry about the whole team and try to go get a win."

Seguin, who has been playing third-line minutes, is not even assured of making the Bruins in a full-time capacity this season. Boston still has two more games -- including Thursday -- to decide if their precocious youngster stays with the parent club or gets sent back to junior to save a year on his entry-level deal.

Kessel, meanwhile, is not going anywhere. He is one of the building blocks Toronto GM Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson believe will be crucial to the just-started renaissance of the Maple Leafs.

Kessel finished with 30 goals in his first season with Toronto despite missing training camp and the first month of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. He's been just as good in this season's first month, scoring 7 goals and 9 points already for a Maple Leafs team that sits second in the Northeast Division at a surprising 5-2-1.

Despite the belief that Kessel will be a true great in the game for the next decade or longer, Wilson understands Toronto gave away some serious assets -- including the club's 2011 first-round pick -- in order to obtain their game-breaker.

On the morning of the first head-to-head clash between the forever-linked players, Wilson was asked if the exchange was worth it.

"That's a trade you talk about five years from now when Tyler Seguin is a full-time NHL player," Wilson told reporters Thursday. "I don't think Tyler right now today is nearly as good as Phil.

"Phil scored 30 goals last year, he's probably going to score 40-50 goals this year, so we're happy with what he have right now, for sure."

Kessel, for his part, is happy to be in Toronto after a sometimes rough three-year run in Boston. But he has not yet been able to yet show Boston fans what they are missing. In six games last season against the Bruins -- including three losses at TD Garden -- Kessel was more non-entity than burgeoning superstar -- totaling just 1 assist against his former team.

He hopes that his run of ill fortune against the Bruins ends Thursday, as the hockey world turns its eyes to the first live installment of the Seguin-Kessel debate.

"I don't want to stick it to them," Kessel said Thursday morning. "I want to obviously play well. Last year I had a lot of chances, I just didn't score, so hopefully I can change that this year and hopefully the most important thing is just getting wins."
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