Kessel sidelined two games
'Undisclosed injury' will be reassessed next week
WILMINGTON - After a week layoff, the Bruins are itching to get back to game action. But as they finally resume play, they'll have one major scratch.
The Bruins will be without leading goal scorer Phil Kessel for a two-game trip that begins tonight in Toronto. The 21-year-old speedster was held out of yesterday's practice at Ristuccia Arena with an undisclosed injury.
Coach Claude Julien wouldn't elaborate on the injury, saying only that Kessel would also miss tomorrow night's game against Philadelphia.
In the Bruins' last game, Sunday's 4-1 win over New Jersey, Kessel skated 15:28, registering an assist and four shots.
"We're going to assess it as an undisclosed injury that's going to be reassessed at the beginning of next week," Julien said. "We really feel at this stage that it's probably better to be cautious."
On March 10, Kessel was blasted into the boards by Columbus defenseman Jan Hejda midway through the second period of a 2-0 Bruins loss. He returned for the third period but was given the following day off. Then he scored twice in a 5-3 home win against Ottawa March 12.
Considering the team hasn't played since last Sunday, the injury is bad timing for Kessel. But as goaltender Tim Thomas said, the rest of the team remains fairly healthy, even at a time of year when bodies accumulate bumps and bruises.
"I don't think there was as many as you guys think," Thomas said of the team's undisclosed injuries. "If there was, I don't know about it. You'd be surprised. We know as little as you guys do when it comes to injuries. They're a taken-care-of-in-the-back-room sort of deal."
Kessel, who has put up 31 goals and 23 assists in 67 games, seemed to show no ill effects following Hejda's hit, putting up points in five of six contests. On Wednesday, he walked through the dressing room at Ristuccia Arena with a wrap on his shoulder after finishing an off-ice workout.
Rookie Blake Wheeler took over the first-line spot at practice, skating with P.J. Axelsson and Marc Savard. Like most of his teammates, he enjoyed the five-day respite, saying it was a refresher for both body and mind.
"We came off a great win on Sunday, so it's been a good thing in our locker room the whole week," Wheeler said. "We're excited to get back at it and get on a roll."
"The first couple days off were fine," defenseman Andrew Ference said. "There were productive practices, but they definitely weren't as sharp as today. Today was a good barometer."
Julien noted the team's jump in practice, adding that the transfer to tonight's game is the key.
"We talked about how good that win was against New Jersey, and there has to be a follow-up on that," Julien said. "We need to show the same energy, the same commitment to moving the puck and doing all the little things that made that game a successful one."
They've had a week to fine-tune their game, but they're hoping not to over-tweak.
"Instead of playing fancier now, we're trying to simplify things. We're more successful when we do that," said Chuck Kobasew.
With 41-year-old Curtis Joseph tending goal against Buffalo last night, rookie Justin Pogge is expected to get the call against Boston. The 22-year-old has struggled, going 1-3-1 with a 3.94 goals-against average and an .855 save percentage in six starts.
"He's a guy who's pretty hard on himself to start with," Julien said. "But that's what you want to see. If you see the effort, you can always help him. Don't make the most complicated plays that used to work for you. Maybe take a step back, make a strong play that maybe looks easy in your mind. Sometimes guys move ahead too fast.
"If his stats were better, I don't think we'd be saying much about David right now," Julien added. "I don't think his game has gone south overall."