Pittsburgh Penguins right winger James Neal left Wednesday’s playoff contest against the New York Islanders following a power play in the second period, as reported by Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
James Neal was limping on ice during #Penguins PP and now apparently has gone to locker room.— Shelly Anderson (@pgshelly) May 2, 2013
UPDATE: Tuesday, May 8, at 7:07 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford
After much speculation, Neal will return to the lineup for the Penguins in Game 4, according to the team's official playing roster (via NHL.com).
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UPDATE: Friday, May 3, at 7:29 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford
According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Dave Molinari, Neal was scratched from the Penguins lineup for Game 2 vs. the Islanders:
Penguins scratch Vitale, Jeffrey, Kennedy, Bortuzzo and Despres, in addition to Neal and Orpik.— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) May 3, 2013
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Neal saw just 8:09 of action to that point, but his presence was greatly felt after missing the team’s previous eight contests with a concussion.
As Josh Yohe of the Tribune-Review detailed with this tweet, Neal’s injury was the result of a slash, and he likely won’t return given the 5-0 lead Pittsburgh held over New York at the time he left the ice:
Winger James Neal, who suffered an apparent ankle injury during Game 1, is not participating in the Penguins' practice.— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) May 2, 2013
Neal has recorded 36 points in 40 games with the Penguins this season, including 21 goals. Given the injury troubles of Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh should hope Neal’s injury won’t keep him off the ice for any extended period of time.
The 25-year-old hasn’t struggled with injury concerns in the past. In his previous four seasons in the NHL (two-plus with Dallas), the winger has played in at least 77 games per year, save for the shortened 2013 season.
Neal has proved to be a tremendous impact player for the star-studded Penguins in his two seasons with the team, coming off a 40-goal, 81-point campaign a season ago. His 36 points this year rank him No. 43 in the league, despite his time off the ice at the end of the regular season.
Should Pittsburgh hang on to its sizable lead in Game 1, the Penguins will be in good position to weather the storm of potentially missing Neal in subsequent contests.