James Neal played just 3:49 vs the New Jersey Devils and is now considered out indefinitely. “It’s more week-to-week than day-to-day,” Bylsma said of Neal’s injury.
Bylsma said a number of players could see time in Neal’s spot but the injury to Neal is likely to lead to Beau Bennett moving up to the second line RW spot with Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen.
Bennett practiced in that spot today.
If Neal is out several weeks, Matt D’Agostini would be worth a look on Malkin’s right wing, letting Bylsma keep the third line of Bennett, Brandon Sutter and Chuck Kobasew together, but D’Agostini is not eligible to play for another three weeks due to being on LTIR and it’s not clear if he’ll be cleared to play by then anyways.
Losing a 40 goal scorer in Neal is a blow but the Penguins depth in the top-6 is much stronger than the start of last year when the likes of Eric Tangradi, Dustin Jeffrey and Zach Boychuk were forced to play top-6 roles early in the year.
For Neal, any lengthy absence diminishes his chances even more of making Team Canada as he’s gone into the season as a longshot candidate for Canada.
SATURDAY’S EXPECTED LINEUP VS SABRES
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – Beau Bennett
Dustin Jeffrey – Brandon Sutter – Chuck Kobasew
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi – Matt Niskanen
Olli Maatta – Robert Bortuzzo
Marc Andre Fleury