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Kessel will play; Bruins must stop Staal

by Shawn P. Roarke
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins know that they won't keep Carolina star Eric Staal off the scoreboard for this entire series.

"You are just trying to limit as much as possible," Bruins forward Mark Recchi said. "He's too good a player to stop him. You just try to control him and hope he doesn't take over the game."

It will be the Bruins job to make sure Staal does not take over Game 2 of this best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal here at the TD Banknorth Garden Sunday night (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN, RDS). Boston won Game 1, 4-1.

Recchi knows all about Staal's abilities because he played with Staal on the Carolina club that won the Stanley Cup in 2006 and watched Staal, just 22 at the time, put up 28 points in 25 postseason games.

Now, Recchi is part of the forward line Boston coach Claude Julien has tasked with stopping the Staal line, so he has seen plenty of video on what Staal can do to take over a game. For sure, he has seen the tape of Staal picking up a head of steam against New Jersey in the last minute of Game 7, the score tied at 3-3, and then blazing down the wing to rifle a shot through the 7-hole of Martin Brodeur to give the Cardiac "Canes another improbable comeback and set up this current series.

That one burst of brilliance shows how dangerous Staal can be when he is given the puck in stride and allowed to utilize his defense to get wide on the defender. Not surprisingly, it has become the task of Recchi, center Patrice Bergeron and fellow winger Chuck Kobasew to make sure that Staal never reaches critical speed.

"If he is skating well and doing the things that he does, he is going to get the puck with speed," Recchi said. "You just have to make sure the back pressure is there our gaps are good. If our back pressure is there, it's going to make it a little tougher for him to generate some plays and get shots on net.

"That's what we are trying to do; we are just trying to limit him as much as possible."

"You are just trying to limit as much as possible.  He's too good a player to stop him. You just try to control him and hope he doesn't take over the game." -- Mark Recchi on Eric Staal
Much of the heavy lifting and notoriety for limiting Staal to just two shots in Game 1 and forcing Carolina coach Paul Maurice to change his lines in the game's second half has gone to big defenseman Zdeno Chara and his partner, Aaron Ward. But, it is a five-man unit that makes the shutdown tactic work and Recchi and company are the first line of defense in that assignment.

"When you can shut down that line that’s been very effective for them, we have a tendency to give Zdeno and Aaron a lot of credit, but it takes a five-man unit, and although I didn’t necessarily want to get into the perfect match (of lines) -- because that’s not the way we play -- they saw most of the ice against him," Julien said.

And, the Recchi-Bergeron-Kobasew unit will draw that duty again Sunday night in Game 2.

The other note to come out of Sunday's morning skate, which was optional for the Bruins, was that Phil Kessel skated after skipping Saturday's practice with a swollen left elbow. All indications are he will play Sunday night in Game 2.

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