James Neal’s status for tomorrow night’s opener against the New Jersey Devils is up in the air. Neal who left practice early today, is listed as day to day with an upper body injury. Head coach Dan Bylsma said¬†after practice¬†the injury didn’t happen today and Neal came out to test it.
If Neal is unable to give it a go, Evgeni Malkin figures to center Jussi Jokinen and Beau Bennett on the second line.
The Penguins planned to start Jokinen on left wing with Malkin and Neal and use a third line of Beau Bennett – Brandon Sutter – Chuck Kobasew.

  • Olli Maatta is expected to make his NHL debut tomorrow night. Maatta has been working exclusively with Robert Bortuzzo as the No. 3 pairing since the weekend. He was in that spot again today. What happens with Maatta when Kris Letang returns, which is likely at somepoint next week, remains to be seen.
  • The Penguins, though, have cap space and roster space available with Tomas Vokoun and Matt D’Agostini being placed on long term injured reserve.The Penguins depth in the bottom-6 is already in question and with D’Agostini expected to miss around the first month of the season, if not longer, the signing of Chuck Kobasew at the league minimum was important in the Penguins eyes. Things fell into place for Kobasew, though, he obviously sought a bigger contract.
  • It’s believed Dustin Jeffrey has won the No. 4 center job out of camp and if Neal is able to give it a go, it’s expected that Joe Vitale will be a healthy scratch. If Neal is out, Jeffrey is the ideal candidate to move up with Sutter and Kobasew vs the Devils.
  • Matt Niskanen has moved into a No. 2 pairing role with Rob Scuderi. This type of situation is why the Penguins have wanted to hang onto Niskanen.