The Pittsburgh Penguins are banged up all over, and won’t be getting James Neal back out on the ice for at least another week. As in, back out on the ice to practice—something that the top-six winger hasn’t done since October 3 when he was originally injured. The fear of some serious rink rust kicks in at that point.
Being able to skate in a practice and being adjusted to the speed of an NHL contest are two incredibly different things.
Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune updated Neal’s status this morning:
Right winger James Neal (upper-body injury) is not expected to resume practicing with the Penguins this week, [Dan] Bylsma said.
Neal missed a 10th consecutive game at Toronto. He has not played or practiced since Oct. 3, when he was injured in the regular-season opener against New Jersey.
Pittsburgh was doing well enough without Neal throughout the first few weeks of the regular season, but appear to have hit a rough patch as they continue to cycle through top-six wingers while losing defensemen at nearly every turn. The Penguins have dropped three in a row now, and are dangerously close to wiping out any early advantage that their hot early start gave them.
They are 7-4-0 at this point, and are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Only three points seperate the Penguins and the eighth-place New York Islanders.
Getting Neal back out on the ice and in game shape sooner rather than later when be a big boost the a Penguins team that suddenly appears to need one.