(Leafs winger given “A” on Team Chara)
Take a breath, Phil Kessel.
The embarrassment of a last-pick selection in the NHL All-Star Draft wasn’t likely to repeat itself for Kessel this year, given his 25-goal output so far which is good for a third-place tie in the league.
But now that his long-time linemate (until last Thursday) Joffrey Lupul has been named an assistant captain to Team (Zdeno) Chara, it’s all but a certainty that Kessel won’t be the butt-end of an Alex Ovechkin cell phone photo.
“It’ll be fun, and we’ll try and make it as fun as possible for the fans,” said Lupul at the Leafs’ game-day morning skate at Air Canada Centre where the team will host the Montreal Canadiens tonight.
“It’s always nice to be recognized, it’s an honour. I didn’t get a chance to watch the whole draft and everything last year, so I’m not sure exactly what we’ll be doing. But they said ‘just have fun with it and try to make it entertaining for the people watching'”. Lupul was informed of the appointment by an NHLPA representative just before the team’s practice this morning.
Coach Ron Wilson plans no lineup changes for tonight’s game, meaning that Lupul and Kessel will once again play on separate lines as they did in their 4-1 Thursday win over Minnesota. “It’s a nice feather in his cap,” said Wilson regarding Lupul’s honour. “He’s had a great year, he’s been very consistent.
“I think the most relieved guy in the room will be Phil Kessel! Chara was with the Bruins, and they seem to give Phil a hard time. Daniel Alfredsson (the other All-Star captain) is one of our biggest rivals, and I think Phil was worried that they might try to get together and pass him over again. So Lupul will prevent that from happening!”
Fans of a certain age will remember “Albert” from the old Canadian Tire commercials.
It’s safe to say that Kessel won’t be having an Albert-like moment for a second straight year.
The NHL All-Star draft takes place in Ottawa on Thursday, January 26.