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Kessel sits out practice with swollen elbow

by Shawn P. Roarke
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston received a scare Saturday as top line right wing Phil Kessel was the only player to miss a short practice at Ristuccia Arena, the team's training facility.

Afterward, coach Claude Julien said the young sniper was OK and merely sat out for precautionary reasons after coming up with a swollen left elbow in Friday's 4-1 victory against Carolina in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Game 2 is Sunday night (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN, RDS) at TD Banknorth Garden and Kessel is expected to be taking a regular shift on Boston's top line.

"He banged his elbow," Julien said. "It's not a big deal, it's just a little swollen this morning, so we kept him off. He'll be 100 percent tomorrow."

Kessel apparently was shaken up in the second period when he took a solid hit in the corner from Carolina's Joni Pitkanen while setting up Marc Savard's first goal, the game-winner in an eventual 4-1 victory. It's believed Kessel fell awkwardly on his elbow when he hit the ice.

Yet, Kessel continued playing in the game and even set up Savard's second goal at the 7:21 mark of the third period, taking another, less hard, hit from Tim Gleason in order to leave a drop pass for Savard that was hammered past Cam Ward.

Kessel played 15 minutes and 14 seconds in Game 1, finishing with two assists and a plus-2 rating. 

It doesn't appear that there will be any personnel changes in Game 2, but the lines could be scrambled again.

After an uninspired first period, Julien changed his lines in an attempt to put some jump into his team, which he felt was playing lethargically.

"I just felt we looked a little bit flat offensively," Julien said Friday night. "We weren't generating much, and we just kind of put some players back together that had played together before. It just seemed to get that little spark that we needed and found a way to score some goals."

Rugged forward Milan Lucic moved up to the top line, replacing the more defensively adroit P.J. Axelsson, who dropped to the fourth line. Meanwhile, fourth-liner Blake Wheeler joined David Krejci and Michael Ryder on the second line.

Although Lucic did not get a point on either play, he was on the ice for both goals by Savard. On the second one, the slapper in the third period, Lucic gave Savard a clear lane for the shot by dragging the defense with him as he rushed toward the net.

"I mean (Julien) has done that all year, and he seems to pull the right numbers out of the hat a lot of times," Savard said, noting that Lucic played on his flank for much of the season.

There is a good chance that we could see the changes that took place in the second half stay in effect for Game 2 as Boston practiced Saturday with the reconfigured lines, although scratch Byron Bitz played in place of Kessel on the top line.
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