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Matt Hunwick ruled out for Philly game

WILMINGTON — Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick won’t be making the trip to Philadelphia for Wednesday night’s game due to his ongoing battle with the flu. Hunwick missed two games over the weekend with flu-like symptoms, and B’s coach Claude Julien [1] wanted to make certain his defenseman was fully recovered before rejoining the team. After last season’s problem with the flu spreading through the locker room, Julien is also attempting to keep Hunwick away from his healthy teammates until he’s back to full health.

 Julien didn’t rule out Hunwick, who missed practice both Monday and Tuesday, from rejoining the team on the road swing prior to Thursday’s tilt at the Ottawa Senators [2].

“There’s a possibility he might join us in Ottawa if need be,” said Julien. “But he’s not well enough to travel with the team…or to have him around the team for that matter.”

Manny Fernandez [3] looks to make the two-game road trip through Philadelphia and Ottawa, and made it through Tuesday’s practice this morning at Ristuccia Arena without incident. The 34-year-old goaltender has been out since with back spasms and soreness, but should be approaching a return to goal in the near-future. Julien wouldn’t put an exact date on Fernandez’s return and wanted to speak with his veteran goalie before deciding to put him back between the pipes.

“I don’t know exactly where Manny is, and I have to sit down and talk to him about his feel,” said Julien. “Goaltenders have to feel very comfortable moving around and stopping pucks. We’ll have to sit down and have a chat with (Fernandez), see how he does over the next couple of days and then go from there.”

Phil Kessel [4] made an appropriately speedy return from mono, but the smooth-skating forward hasn’t potted a goal in his three games back since the All-Star break, and still isn’t quite mixing together that skating, firing and forechecking combo that bestowed him with 24 goals in the first half of the season.

The shifty winger notched a pair of of assists in his first game back from the illness, but Julien feels it’s just a matter of regaining timing and touch for Kessel after missing six games with the illness. In fact, it was a month ago today that Kessel last lit the lamp against the Buffalo Sabres [5] in a Jan. 3, 4-2 loss and his current six-game scoreless stretch represents the 22-year-old’s longest scoring drought of this season.

‘(Kessel’s level of play) is not at the level it was before the injury and he knows that,” said Julien. “He may feel good about his skating and everything else, but it’s one of those things where he needs to find his game again. He’s not terrible, but he’s not at the stage from before he got hurt.

“It’s getting a rhythm and getting into those holes and finding your timing,” added Julien. “Making those scoring opportunities happen for you and it’s a little bit of timing here and there. Some of it is us as a coaching staff showing him (video) clips to help him get back, and some of it is just (Kessel) getting his timing back as well.”

Kessel isn’t the only player that’s emerged slowly out of the gate in the second half, however, as the Krejci/Wheeler/Ryder line has been pretty well bottled up over the last handful of games as the B’s scoring levels have dropped against some pretty stiff competition. In the natural progression of things during an NHL [6] schedule, it’s typical that play tightens up in the last few months of the season and the days of scoring or five or six goals a night morph into the exception rather than the rule.

“There’s room for improvement there and there’s other guys that can play better as well,” added Julien. “As a team we’re still playing a decent game, and when you see those things (on the horizon) it’s more encouraging for your hockey club.”