Bruins Notebook

For Kessel, a happy 30th

He hits plateau with quick strike

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 15, 2009
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Seconds after rolling over the bench in the first period to replace Chuck Kobasew, Phil Kessel saw the puck come his way.

Andrew Ference, after taking a pass from Steve Montador, flipped a wrister on goal. The puck bounced off Blake Wheeler and dribbled to an in-stride Kessel. The right wing didn't miss.

With a snap of his wrists, Kessel buried the puck behind Islanders goalie Yann Danis at 3:16 for his team-leading 30th goal. Kessel is the first Bruin to hit the 30-goal mark since Patrice Bergeron netted 31 in 2005-06.

"It's a nice milestone," said Kessel. "It's a tribute to my teammates and my linemates I've been playing with this year. They find me quite a bit. So I'm fortunate to be playing with some good hockey players this year."

Kessel, most recently playing with Marc Savard and Wheeler, has scored three goals in the last two games. Against Ottawa on Thursday, Kessel pumped in two, one against ex-Bruin goalie Alex Auld and another into an empty net.

Yesterday, Kessel also assisted on Savard's first-period goal. After taking a long-distance pass from Zdeno Chara, Kessel danced around defenseman Brendan Witt and found Savard in the slot for the center's 22d goal. Kessel finished the game with three shots in 15:22 of ice time.

"Phil is the type of player that when he's on his game with his speed, shot, and his skill level, he can certainly be a game-breaker type of player," said coach Claude Julien. "Having said that, when he doesn't compete the way he's been competing lately, he's a player that doesn't bring as much to the table.

"This is what you need from guys like Phil and from young players. To be able to develop into better players, you have to bring a complete level. Night in and night out."

Penguins on tap
This afternoon, the Bruins will visit the surging Penguins, who are in the mix for a playoff spot. The turnaround came when the Penguins fired coach Michel Therrien Feb. 15 and promoted Dan Bylsma from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL).

Although Bylsma has turned Pittsburgh around, the Penguins also have benefited from the return of defenseman Sergei Gonchar from shoulder surgery. General manager Ray Shero also added firepower up front by acquiring Chris Kunitz from Anaheim and Bill Guerin from the Islanders. Kunitz and Guerin are riding shotgun with Sidney Crosby.

"Pittsburgh's on a pretty good roll right now," said Julien. "If we want ourselves a good challenge, we've got it."

Energy boost
Former Bruin Nate Thompson, claimed on waivers by the Islanders the day before the season, played yesterday in his second match since missing 16 games with a shoulder injury. "After a period, he got his legs underneath him," New York coach Scott Gordon said of his energy-line center's first game back against Montreal Thursday. "When we needed him most was during a five-on-three against Montreal. He won two faceoffs and did a great job of helping to kill off a full two-minute five-on-three. So it was good to see him back in the lineup. He brings a lot of energy." . . . Tim Thomas recorded his 30th win. Thomas won 30 games in 2006-07. "He's found more of his sharpness that he had until maybe a few weeks ago," said Julien. "The confidence level from both our goaltenders took a little bit of a beating."

Second wind
Although he's faced adversity as a first-year NHL coach, Gordon said he's felt energized recently. "The guys have been great in the second half," said the former Providence coach. "As bad as the first half was, I almost feel as if in this second half that I'm back in Providence last year. With the attitude that the guys bring, young guys and vets, it's been tremendous. They have really taken hold of what's presented to them and done a great job." . . . Stephane Yelle (upper-body injury) missed his fourth straight game . . . Montador recorded his first point as a Bruin when he assisted on Kessel's goal . . . After going 1 for 11 on the draw (9 percent) against Ottawa Thursday, Bergeron won 10 of 16 (63 percent) yesterday . . . Milan Lucic landed a game-high five hits. He was called for roughing against Tim Jackman in the third period when the forward decked Ference from behind.

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