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Pens want Kessel to shoot more

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Ask any Pens player or coach what they've learned about Phil Kessel since he came to Pittsburgh, and they'll all say his passing ability is underrated.

And we've seen that this past week at PPG Paints Arena, where Kessel is currently on a seven-game home point streak. He's made three gorgeous set-ups in the last two games, with a power-play feed to Sidney Crosby standing out the most. 

On the play, Crosby skated to the side of the net, stopped and faced Kessel on the wall. Kessel put the puck right on his blade and Crosby perfectly deflected it into the net. 

"I'm just trying to look for the right play," Kessel said. "And when guys are open in front of the net, you want to try and get it there and distribute to him and let him go to work."

However, at the end of the day Kessel's shooting ability is his biggest strength. There's just a handful of guys in the league who can put the puck on net like he can. And head coach Mike Sullivan had a conversation with him Friday morning about getting back to that mentality.

"We think he's at his best when he's a shot-first guy, when he has that shot-first mentality," Sullivan said. "He's a very good passer, he's a very good playmaker, but we think when he's at his very best he's a shot-first guy. He's a dangerous shooter. I think he has opportunities to put the puck on the net throughout the course of the game and he's choosing to distribute versus shooting the puck.

"So we'd like to see him shoot a little bit more. He understands it and I think he's a guy he can make that adjustment fairly easily."

Kessel pointed out that it's still relatively early, and he feels that aspect of his game will come with time.

"It's just kind of how it's been going so far," Kessel said of him passing versus shooting. "It's still early. We're only 14 games in and it will come eventually."

Kessel will look to start making that adjustment tonight against Toronto, the team he spent six seasons with before Pittsburgh acquired him on Jul. 1, 2015. And we all know what happened after that.

"I still have a lot of friends on that team, so I talk to them once in a while," Kessel said. "Obviously last year was a great year for myself and the guys here, so you move on."

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