BOSTON – He has no idea what the future might bring, but if forced to evaluate the trade that brought him Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is going to base his opinion on the present.
And his own bias aside, Wilson said it’s no contest right now.
“Well Phil Kessel’s got seven goals, Tyler’s got what, one?,” Wilson said on Thursday referring to hot-shot Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin, who came to Boston via the Leafs first-round draft pick acquired in the Kessel deal.
“That’s a trade you talk about five years from now when Tyler Seguin is a full-time NHL player. I don’t think Tyler right now today is anywhere near as good as Phil.
“Phil scored 30 goals last year he’s probably going to score 40 or 50 goals this year. We’re happy with what we have right now for sure.”
While all eyes will on Kessel as he returns to the town that he started his career, the Leafs have other concerns - namely whether forward Kris Versteeg will be in the lineup. Bothered by a bad back, Versteeg didn’t participate in the Leafs’ game-day skate and is questionable for Thursday’s game.
“I expect him to play,” Wilson said. “We’ll see how he feels before the game and make our decision then.”
If Versteeg can’t play, he’ll be replaced by John Mitchell on a line with Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski. The other notable lineup change for the Leafs will see Luca Caputi get his first start of the season in place of injured Colby Armstrong.
Kessel, meanwhile, will be looking to snap out of the poor performances he had against the Bruins last season when he registered just one assist in six contests.
“I don’t want to stick it to them, I just want to play well,” said Kessel, the Leafs’ leading scorer. “Last year I had a lot of chances, I just couldn’t bury so hopefully I can change that this year.”
One thing that is unlikely to change is the response from the Garden fans: “It will probably be the same as last year,” Kessel said. “They can do whatever they want.”
Jonas Gustavsson will get his third start of the season in the Leafs net while red-hot Tim Thomas is in for the Bruins. After a so-so 2009-2010 season, Thomas has rebounded with a 4-0 record and sensational 0.75 goals against average.
“I understand he was a little banged up last year and now he’s healthy and a little more confident,” Wilson said of Thomas. “He’s a tough goalie to have a game plan for becuase he’ll do anything to stop the puck. You can’t expect him to do anything conventional.”
It will be a big night for Seguin, the Brampton native who will be making his first start against his hometown team.
“I’m not going to stand back here and deny that it’s a pretty special game for Tyler,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He is excited about playing in it.”
LOOSE LEAFS: The Bruins were 4-1-1 against the Leafs last season with three of the six games being decided either in overtime or by shootout ... The Bruins have won their past five home games against the Leafs.