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The Inside Scoop: Kessel vs. Leafs

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pens winger Phil Kessel played the previous six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. So you would expect it to be an emotional game for him when the Leafs come to CONSOL Energy Center to play Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

If that’s the case, he isn’t showing it.

“It’s the same game. I’ve played a bunch of games, so it’s not a big deal,” Kessel said following Friday’s practice. “Obviously I loved my time in Toronto. I had a great time there. I have a lot of friends there. I loved the city. But it’s time to move on.”

Kessel led the Leafs in scoring during all six of his years in blue. He totaled 181 goals and 394 points during that span and was the club’s marquee player. The Toronto media will certainly be shining a bright spotlight on him during the game.

But his thoughts? Meh.

“I don’t care. Whatever,” Kessel said of the extra attention. “I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team win (Saturday) night and try to play my best and whatever happens, happens.”

Although Kessel may be nonchalant about his first time playing against his former teammates, head coach Mike Johnston anticipates that he’ll feel some excitement once the game begins.

“I’m sure Kessel is going to be really exited,” he said.

*Forward Beau Bennett was placed on Injured Reserve. “He’s injured right now and we’ll wait and see how he progresses over the next little while,” Johnston said.

*Defenseman Tim Erixon was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

*Johnston said the team will not put rookie Daniel Sprong on the top two lines. At least not yet. “Not right now.”

But that doesn’t mean that Johnston hasn’t been impressed by the 18-year-old from the Netherlands.

“I just think he gets better and better. He was rewarded with more ice time and a bigger role, and he responded,” Johnston said. “For me, he hasn’t failed any tests yet. It’s an individual thing. You’re looking at him independently.”

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