Phil Kessel’s(notes) first reunion with his former team didn’t go how the high-scoring 22-year-old had hoped, but he won’t have to wait long for another chance to show the Boston Bruins and their fans what they’re missing.
For the second time in less than a week Kessel’s Toronto Maple Leafs will visit Boston, and they’ll be intent on producing a different result Thursday after their lopsided loss to the Bruins last weekend.
Kessel led the Bruins with 36 goals last season, helping the team take the top spot in the Eastern Conference with an offense that ranked second in the NHL at 3.29 goals per game.
Boston couldn’t sign the restricted free agent over the summer, eventually trading him to the Maple Leafs for draft picks. That earned Kessel a rude reception at the TD Garden on Saturday, as fans booed him whenever he touched the puck in the Bruins’ 7-2 win.
“You hear it, but it didn’t get to me,” said Kessel, who failed to record a point and was minus-three in the game. “I’ve got to be better. You figure when you are dealt that’s going to happen. It’s part of the game.”
With 10 goals and six assists in 17 games since returning from offseason shoulder surgery, Kessel has contributed to the Leafs’ turnaround from an 0-7-1 start.
Toronto (10-13-7) has won six of eight to inch back toward the postseason conversation in the East. Even troubled goaltender Vesa Toskala(notes) has chipped in lately, stopping 52 of 56 shots in back-to-back wins this week after he replaced Joey MacDonald(notes) against the Bruins.
“We have to put our foot on the gas and play our best hockey every night,” Blake said. “Last game when we played in Boston, we didn’t do that.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien is expecting a better effort from his team’s Original Six rival than he saw Saturday, when Marc Savard’s(notes) hat trick helped give Boston a 7-0 lead before the team cruised to its sixth straight win over Toronto.
“We’ve got to be ready,” Julien told the Bruins’ official Web site. “They came in here and lost 7-2, do you think they’re going to come in here and do the same thing?”
While the Bruins (15-9-5) haven’t played since that game, they’ll be trying to harness the momentum from a 7-1-1 run that has put them on better footing following a mediocre start.
Savard, the team’s leading point-scorer in 2008-09, is hoping his three-goal effort helps him return to form after he missed 15 games with a broken foot earlier in the season. Injuries to Savard and Milan Lucic(notes) are among the reasons Boston’s offense has been inconsistent, ranking among the NHL’s bottom five with 2.45 goals per game.
“You want to be one of the leaders here and that’s what leaders do,” Savard said. “They try and go out there and contribute.”