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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Now in his third season with the Penguins, former Toronto star Phil Kessel has found his home.
It is a home that has allowed the skilled winger to win consecutive Stanley Cups, while escaping the constant ridicule and scrutiny that accompanied his time with the Maple Leafs.
Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena, Kessel will again take on the franchise that sent him to Pittsburgh in July of 2015. But, for the easygoing 30-year-old, the matchup is just another game.
“I don’t really care anymore,” Kessel said after practice Friday. “It’s the third year, and we won [the Stanley Cup] twice. It’s in the past.”
Kessel finds himself currently in a five-way tie for fourth place in the NHL in points and is sitting at 66 points with teammates Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
“He’s pretty laid-back,” Crosby said. “I think people see the other side of him now with social media and things like that. You get a little bit of a sneak peek. He’s pretty loose around the rink and he’s a great guy to have in the room. You need different personalities and he certainly provides that.”
Infamously badgered by local and national media while in Toronto, Kessel has been able to take a back seat to other star players.
“It’s nice,” he said to a pack of media surrounding his locker. “I don’t have to talk every day to you guys. I can just do my thing. I like that.”
His personality has enamored his coaches as well.
“I think his teammates really like him,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s a fun guy to be around, he’s got a great sense of humor. I’ve really grown to admire and appreciate his personality. I don’t think he takes anything too seriously, most importantly himself.
Sullivan’s last point was certainly reaffirmed when Kessel, who stands just 10 points out of the points lead in the NHL, was asked about making a push for the Art Ross Trophy.
“I got two Cups,” he said. “Doesn’t really matter.”