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Veteran has new starring role

PITTSBURGH — Chris Kunitz planted himself in the crease, bent over, put his stick on the ground and waited.

Even as an Islanders defenseman leaned on the Penguins forward trying to nudge him away from goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, Kunitz's skates appeared to be glued to the ice.

When the pass came from teammate James Neal, Kunitz casually tapped it into the wide open net.

With an almost sheepish grin the nine-year veteran lifted his stick with joy, as if to say, "Again? For real?"

For real.

Such is life these days for one of the NHL's hottest players, one who has spent most of his nine seasons comfortably in the shadow of his high-profile teammates.

Heading into tonight's showdown with Boston, Kunitz is third in the NHL in scoring — after two more usual contenders, teammate Sidney Crosby and Lightning star Steven Stamkos.

Kunitz's 36 points on 17 goals and 19 assists puts him well ahead of guys whose resumes are littered with All-Star appearances and whose paychecks come with a few more zeros.

He's on pace for 66 points which, despite this being a lockout-shortened season, would be a career high.

Kunitz, 31, is a blue-collar guy who has developed a knack for lighting the red lamp.

His plus-21 rating is the best in the league and he's turning an eye-popping 29 percent of his shots into goals.

Ask Kunitz for his secret and he deflects any praise onto a guy more used to the spotlight.

"I get to play with the best player in the world every night," he said, nodding toward Crosby's locker. "It makes going out and playing a lot of fun."

But Crosby says Kunitz is doing all the hard work.

"The way Kuni's firing the puck right now, he makes all of us look good by putting the puck in the back of the net," Crosby said.

Game highlight: David Krejci scored the shootout winner as the visiting Bruins defeated the Senators 3-2.

Bruins 1 1 0 0 3
at Senators 2 0 0 0 2
Bruins win shootout 2-1

First1, Ottawa, Latendresse 1 (Gonchar, Phillips), :55. 2, Ottawa, Turris 5 (Phillips), 7:18. 3, Boston, Thornton 2 (Chara), 19:16. PenaltiesSmith, Ott (boarding), 9:21; McQuaid, Bos, minor-major (boarding, fighting), 11:41; Wiercioch, Ott, served by Stone (instigator-face shield, instigator, fighting), 11:41.

Second4, Boston, Paille 5 (Krejci, McQuaid), 8:53. PenaltiesKrejci, Bos (slashing), 6:15; Smith, Ott (tripping), 15:42.

ThirdNone. PenaltiesHamilton, Bos (cross-checking), 6:27.

OvertimeNone. PenaltiesNone.

ShootoutBoston 2 (Seguin NG, Bergeron G, Marchand NG, Krejci G), Ottawa 1 (Silfverberg NG, Turris G, Alfredsson NG, Daugavins NG). Shots on GoalBoston 16-7-9-3—35. Ottawa 15-8-6-3—32. Power-play opportunitiesBoston 0 of 3; Ottawa 0 of 2. GoaliesBoston, Rask 13-2-3 (32 shots-30 saves). Ottawa, Lehner 1-0-3 (35-33). A20,256 (19,153). T2:49.

Veteran has new starring role 03/11/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 12:10am]

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