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Kessel's torrid start adds to Leafs-Bruins storyline

by Matt Kalman /

BOSTON -- It didn't take long for someone to ask Claude Julien this morning if he thinks the whole Phil Kessel/Tyler Seguin story will ever go away.

The Bruins coach quickly turned the tables on that reporter.

"That's up to you guys. It's certainly not created by us," Julien said after his team's morning skate in preparation for Thursday's game against Kessel and the Maple Leafs at TD Garden. "It's you guys that create the story all the time. We don't. We've turned the page, and I'm sure they have. Everybody wants to move on, but you guys control that. So I should be asking you that question, ‘Are you ever going to let that story die?'"

Well if it was ever going to die, now would not be the time. Kessel has returned to Boston several times since he was traded in the fall of 2009 for three draft picks, including the one Boston turned into Seguin the following summer. But this is the first time he's visited his old city as the NHL's reigning scoring leader.

Kessel has League-leading totals of 7 goals and 12 points in just five games.

"He's off to a good start again," Julien said. "That's been a trademark of Phil's, he gets off to really good starts. I watched him play last night and he's playing extremely well. So he, his line, has been doing a lot of damage out there on the ice. So I think we need to understand that danger of that and make sure that we're very aware when they're out there on the ice."

Phil Kessel
Right Wing - TOR
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 12
SOG: 21 | +/-: 7
While Kessel seems to be on his way to a career-year, Seguin, the No. 2 pick in 2010, is off to a fast start in his second season. He has recorded 1 goal and 4 assists while switching between wing and center through the Bruins' first six games.

"He's been good. He's been very good," Julien said of Seguin, who put up 11 goals and 22 points in 74 regular-season games as a rookie. "I think the fact that he's had the opportunity to be with us for a whole year, and you know that experience that we went through last year couldn't have been better for him, just watching the game, the tempo, the intensity of all the playoff games and him being part of that. So over the course of the summer, a guy like that soaks that in, he comes back this year with a lot more confidence, a lot more knowledge and obviously [he's] a stronger and better player.

"So he's come in here this year and I've seen him compete better than I've ever seen him compete before. That's confidence. He's been through it. He says, ‘You know what? I've got a year underneath me now. I know exactly what to expect, and I'm just going to go out there and do my job.' So he's really done a great job and we've had to move him at center, we had to put him on the wing, and he really doesn't care. He wants to play and he wants to play wherever we put him."

The Bruins used the other two draft picks to select forward Jared Knight and defenseman Dougie Hamilton, a pair of highly-touted prospects that could keep the story of the Kessel trade going well into the next decade. But while the fans and media might be looking at this game as another high-energy installment of "Kessel-mania," the players are just looking at it as a battle for two points.

"They're in our division so it's going to be a big game," said Boston center David Krejci, who could return from injury to play Thursday. "They're off to a good start and Kessel as well. So we've really got to play hard. We know it's going to be a tough game tonight, but if we'll be ready, play our game, then I think it should be fine."
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