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Penguins' Kessel undergoes hand surgery, should be ready for training camp

Jonathan Bombulie
| Saturday, July 9, 2016, 12:42 p.m.
Penguins winger Phil Kessel plays against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on May 26, 2016 in Pittsburgh.
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Penguins winger Phil Kessel plays against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on May 26, 2016 in Pittsburgh.

While leading the Penguins in playoff scoring and finishing second to Sidney Crosby by a razor-thin margin in balloting for the Conn Smythe Trophy, Phil Kessel was playing hurt.

General manager Jim Rutherford confirmed Saturday that Kessel had surgery to repair a hand injury that had been bothering him all season.

Rutherford said Kessel isn't expected to miss time once Penguins training camp starts in late September.

Known for his durability, Kessel, 28, has gone six seasons without missing a game due to injury. He's one of only five NHL players to appear in all of his team's regular-season games this decade. The others are Florida defenseman Keith Yandle, Washington defenseman Karl Alzner, San Jose winger Patrick Marleau and Anaheim center Andrew Cogliano.

Critics contend Kessel's durability is due to his lack of physical play. For instance, he was credited with just nine hits in 82 regular-season games last year. The revelation that he played through a hand injury should go a long way toward silencing that criticism, which has been a theme of the last few months of Kessel's career.

Pundits in Toronto questioned whether Kessel could be a key part of a winning team after the Maple Leafs made the playoffs just once in his six-season tenure with the team. Kessel more or less halted that talk this spring with 10 goals and 22 points in 24 playoff games, playing on a line with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino that led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.

News of Kessel's injury also should put to rest speculation that he might be added to Team USA for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Kessel was left off the roster when the first 16 players were announced in March and again when seven more players were added in May to round out the 23-man team.

Kessel's name was floated as a possible replacement for Tampa Bay winger Ryan Callahan, who had hip surgery last month, but with World Cup training camps starting the first week of September, that now seems unlikely. Tampa Bay center Tyler Johnson, New Jersey winger Kyle Palmieri and Buffalo winger Kyle Okposo are the likely candidates to replace Callahan.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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