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Penguins' Kessel back in Toronto to face Maple Leafs

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PENGUINS (6-4-0) at MAPLE LEAFS (1-6-2)

TV: NHLN, CBC, ROOT

TORONTO -- Phil Kessel makes his return to Air Canada Centre with the Pittsburgh Penguins when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Kessel was traded to the Penguins on July 1 with forward Tyler Biggs and defenseman Tim Erixon for forward Nick Spaling, defenseman Scott Harrington, forward prospect Kasperi Kapanen, and first-round and third-round picks in the 2016 NHL Draft.

"I think there'll be some boos, obviously," Kessel said after the morning skate. "That's always how it is, right? I loved my time here. I don't regret anything, and it should be fun tonight."

Kessel scored 181 goals and 395 points in 446 games for the Maple Leafs.

"It is a little odd," he said of being in the visitors dressing room at the Air Canada Centre. "I played here for six years, so it's a strange feeling, but you know what, it happens, and I'm just excited to be back.

"I played against the Leafs [with the Boston Bruins] in my first few years in the League, so I've been in this dressing room before. It's different because I love this city and I spent a lot of time here. But it's just another game and I'm going to go have fun and try to get a win."

Veteran forward Eric Fehr will make his debut with the Penguins. The 30-year-old wing played previously with the Washington Capitals, scoring 89 goals and 177 points in 454 games.

"I'm really excited," said Fehr, who signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh but missed the first 10 games following elbow surgery. "I was patiently to play and I’m feeling healthy and strong. I’m excited to get going."

Fehr said he hopes to be a strong defensive presence for the Penguins and feels he can chip in on offense.

"I like to pride myself on outplaying whatever line I am matched up against," Fehr said. "You always want to impress your new teammates, but at the same time I'm sure they've all seen me play over the years and they know what to expect from me."

Fehr had the chance in Washington to play with Alex Ovechkin and now he's a teammate of Sidney Crosby.

"It's great to have the opportunity to play with two of the greatest players ever," Fehr said.

Crosby said Fehr is a welcome addition.

"He's a big body who is tough to play against," Crosby said. "He's very reliable defensively, but he can burn you offensively too. Having played against him a lot he's not one of those guys who is purely trying to shut you down; he can make you pay the other way. I'm glad he's on our team."

Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier will start on consecutive days. Bernier, who is 0-5-0, was in goal when the Maple Leafs lost 3-1 to the New York Rangers on Friday.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock said early in the season he'd probably rotate his goalies, Bernier and James Reimer, when the Maple Leafs play on consecutive days, but he has changed his mind.

"There's lots of things you do because what you did didn't work," Babcock said. "I wore a three-piece suit for Original Six games, but when you lose three in a row, guess what I didn't wear last night? It's the definition of insanity."

Pittsburgh has won three in a row and are playing the first of four consecutive road games. Toronto is 0-2-1 at home.

The Maple Leafs have been playing well defensively but have trouble scoring. One player who has been chipping in regularly is defenseman Dion Phaneuf, who leads the Maple Leafs in scoring with seven assists and at plus-4.

"I think Dion has played well for us," Babcock said. "All the things I heard about Dion from the outside, you know, Dion has been a good leader, he has been constant every day with his work ethic, he's energy for the team, he does it right every day and he's getting better defensively."

Babcock noted Phaneuf has become more effective on offense by keeping his shots from the point lower than he did in the past.

"I think it is way easier when (the puck) is about 6 inches off the ice because they can tip it when you have someone in front," Babcock said. "I think when there's no one in front you are more likely to go high because you think you have to score with no one there. When there is someone in front there is the chance for a tip."

Here are the projected lineups:

PENGUINS

Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

David Perron - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel

Chris Kunitz - Nick Bonino - Beau Bennett

Eric Fehr - Matt Cullen - Sergei Plotnikov

Ian Cole - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Rob Scuderi

Ben Lovejoy - Brian Dumoulin

Jeff Zatkoff

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injured: Bryan Rust (undisclosed)

Scratched: Adam Clendening, Daniel Sprong

MAPLE LEAFS

James van RiemsdykNazem KadriLeo Komarov

Daniel WinnikTyler BozakJoffrey Lupul

Michael GrabnerByron FroeseRich Clune

Shawn MatthiasPeter HollandPA Parenteau

Matt HunwickMorgan Rielly

Jake GardinerDion Phaneuf

Martin MarincinRoman Polak

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Nick Spaling (lower body), Scott Harrington (upper body)

Scratched: Brad Boyes

Status report: The Penguins sent forward Kevin Porter to Wilkes-Barre of the American Hockey League. … Kessel played his first game for the Penguins against the Maple Leafs on Oct. 10 and was held without a point playing 20:47.

Who's hot: Kessel has points (one goal, two assists) in the past three games. … Maatta has assists in back-to-back games. … Crosby had two assists in the Penguins' 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. … Phaneuf has assists in three straight games. … Lupul scored his third goal of the season Friday.

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