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Game 2 Pregame Notes: Kessel skates, looks ready

05.03.09 at 1:07 pm ET
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Phil Kessel was on the ice for a voluntary team skate on Sunday morning, and appears ready to go one day after missing practice with a swollen left elbow. Kessel injured the wing after taking a spill and landing on it in the corner during the second period of Game 1 on Friday night.

–A long pregame chat with Hurricanes winger — and former Boston Bruins wunderkind — Sergei Samsonov, who found himself on his fifth NHL team when he joined up with the Canes last season. Samsonov seems to have found a home in the heart of NASCAR country over the last two seasons, and had himself a pretty good season for the Canes in getting close to 50 points (16 goals, 32 assists) in 81 games played.

“I had a great time (in Boston). It was the best years of my career. I felt like something was never accomplished because we never really did it in the playoffs, but as far as everything else goes it was great,” said Samsonov. “My first game, my first NHL goal — stuff like that (I remember). There’s a lot of (memories).

“We still come back as a family here to Boston during the summer because we still have a lot of friends here,” added Samsonov. “It’s only natural when you spend so much time in one city that you grow roots here.”


–Carolina coach Paul Maurice had some fun when asked what Eric Staal needed to start doing to get things going against the Bruins this year. Staal has been held scoreless with a -7 in their first five games against the Bruins during the regular season, and now after one game of the playoff series. It’s highly probably that Carolina is going to move the big, skilled Staal into different spots all over the offensive zone to keep him away from his 6-foot-9 tormenter in Black and Gold.

Staal told reporters he wasn’t frustrated by Chara and the suddenly suffocating Bruins defensive line of Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi and Chuck Kobasew, but that could change quickly if the B’s D keeps pitching shutouts against him.

“We’re benching him, we’re not playing (Staal tonight),” said Maurice. “There are four other people on the ice that need to be effective with Eric, and found a way to be effective with Eric against a very strong, five-man New Jersey defense that they put together with Madden and White. Clearly Chara is in a different class of defenseman — he’s world class — but we have to find a way to get to the other four (Bruins) guys on the ice and Eric has to find a way to get with the other four guys on the ice as well.”

–The Hurricanes are — as expected – drawing parallels between Sunday night’s game and Game 2 of their last series against the New Jersey Devils. It makes perfect sense for Carolina as a rallying cry, and it wouldn’t shock anybody if Sunday night’s game turns into a defensive matchup similar to the 2-1 OT win that stunned the Devils. Carolina goalie Cam Ward made 33 saves in that victory, and the Hurricanes put a never ending supply of pressure on Martin Brodeur in front of Jersey’s net.

One other “kink” that Paul Maurice mentioned needed fixing was the long “home run” type entry passes straight up to the ice that led to disaster for Carolina in Game 1. The entry pass was a low percentage play for the Hurricanes breaking out of their own zone, and too often it left the Canes open to Boston’s counter-attacking style.

“I think the pressure is on us to not allow the counters and the 2-0n-1′s and 3-on-1′s that have really hurt us, and stay out of the penalty box,” said Maurice. “We were a little more open in the neutral zone than we’d like to be against this hockey team, and we need to be careful of that. We’ve lost five games in a row (to the Bruins) and that’s a fact. We’ve got to get through it and there’s no question about it.

“We’ve got to play a better game against this team,” added Maurice.

Claude Julien, for that matter, has been reminding his team about how quickly things turned on the Devils when it seemed they had the Carolina Tropical Storms contained after a dominant Game 1 victory. It’ll be interesting to see just how much desperation and physical envelope-pushing creeps into Carolina’s play in Game 2 after a downright cordial hockey affair between both teams on Friday night.

“We’ve made a commitment to play to the full 60 minutes and play to the buzzer,” said Julien. “You use that example of the .2 second goal that Carolina scored on New Jersey just to let you know that you’ve got to play to the end. That was a great example for everybody that’s still in the playoffs right now.”

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