Neal, Crosby starting to see time together
As well as James Neal and Evgeni Malkin might play together over the next couple weeks, it likely won’t matter when Sidney Crosby returns.
The Penguins ultimate plan is to play James Neal on Crosby’s line and that scenario could just be a few weeks away.
With Malkin dealing with knee soreness, Neal and Crosby have been given opportunities to find some chemistry in the past two skates.
The two skated together on a line on Friday and once again this morning during today’s morning skate.
The Penguins also envision loading up their top line with Chris Kunitz on Crosby’s left wing, bulking up their top line with the team’s best wingers.

If as expected the Penguins go that route, there will be question marks once again when it comes to Evgeni Malkin’s wingers.
The ideal situation for the Penguins would be to split up both Kunitz and Neal to even out the top two lines.
Difficulty to integrate game contact in practices
Sidney Crosby has been on the ice for three straight practices since being cleared for contact on Wednesday. Crosby though has yet to go through any type of real contact to this point. Two of the three skates have been morning skates, including today, and Friday’s skate had little to no contact.
The true test really isn’t going to come until he appears in a game.
It’s pretty hard, ” Crosby said on Friday of integrating game contact in practices. “Typically when we practice, it is not the same physicality as you would see in a game.”
All parties doing good job of moving on from Asham gesture
Arron Asham has shown true remorse from Thursday’s post fight gestures which have created a storm, immediately calling his actions classless and trying to reach out to Jay Beagle through former teammate Mike Knuble on Friday morning.
He’s done a good job of moving away from the moment and head coach Dan Bylsma also did a good job yesterday of addressing the issue.
“I think Arron is dead on when he said the emotions got the best of him, ” Bylsma said on Friday. “He was certainly jacked up for the situation and the fight. The gestures, he is right….. They were overboard, excessive, and classless. I think immediately he felt remorse and regret and he wishes he didn’t make the gestures and he responded as such. I don’t think he’s that type of player, and {we’re} not that type of organization.”
Jeffrey to the wing?
Team sources tell me the Penguins have had internal discussions of developing Dustin Jeffrey into a top-9 winger, with intentions of even giving him some looks on the top-2 lines.
Finding a spot is going to be extremely difficult.
One scenario I’m told that’s been discussed when Sidney Crosby and Jeffrey both return is Jeffrey seeing time on Evgeni Malkin’s right wing.
Kunitz – Crosby – Neal
Sullivan – Malkin – Jeffrey
Cooke – Staal – Kennedy
However, it’s pretty difficult to make an argument of taking any winger out of the top-9, most notably Pascal Dupuis who has 4 points in the team’s first five games.
As much as the Penguins want to explore a move for Jeffrey as a top-9 winger, they will be hardpressed to a find a spot for him.
For now the Penguins have time regarding Jeffrey’s situation as he has yet to be cleared to practice with the team.

Sabres @ Penguins Game Notes

Buffalo Sabres (2-1-1) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (3-0-2)
When: 7:00 p.m. | Where: Consol Energy Center
TV: Root Sports | Radio: 105.9 The X
Referees: Paul Devorski (10); Tom Kowal (32) Linesmen: Scott Cherrey (50); Jean Morin (97)

Dangerous Sabres Team Comes to Town

*A very good Buffalo team comes to town tonight in back-to-back situations, losing to Carolina 4-3 last night.
The Sabres who have not defeated Pittsburgh since a 4-3 win on Dec. 29, 2009 in Buffalo, are a team that figures to battle for one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference this season.
The Sabres three big moves this off-season: Ville Leino was signed as a UFA on July 1 after spending last season with Philadelphia; Christian Ehrhoff’s rights were acquired in a trade from NYI on July 1 after playing with Vancouver last season; Tough rugged defenseman Robyn Regehr was acquired in a trade
with CGY on June 25 after spending 11 seasons with the Flames.
The additions of Ehrhoff and Regehr to go along with the likes of defensemen Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold have given Buffalo an excellent top-4 in front of goaltender Ryan Miller.
Offensively, the Sabres have a lot of potential and the ability to matchup with the elite teams in the East. The Sabres boast a group that includes Thomas Vanek (3G-3A-6Pts), Drew Stafford (2G-1A-3Pts), Luke Adam (2G-2A-4Pts) Jason Pominville (1G-3A-4Pts), Derek Roy (1G-1A-2Pts) and Ville Leino (1G-0A-1Pts). The Sabres lack a true superstar but have a lot of skill and grit throughout their lineup.
Through three games, the Sabres are averaging 3.7 goals per game (11) and are giving up 2.3 goals per game (7).
The Sabres are 3-for-14 on the power play, 21.4% (10th NHL) and 11-for-13 on the PK, 84.6% (T-17th NHL).
Ryan Miller who started last night against Carolina, will not get the start for Buffalo tonight. Jhonas Enroth will start in goal and is 9-3-2 in his career.
Pens look to continue dominance vs Sabres
*The Pittsburgh Penguins will look to continue their dominance against the Buffalo Sabres tonight without Evgeni Malkin who will miss his third game of the season.
Last year the Penguins swept the season series against Buffalo for the second time in four years. Both wins at Buffalo – Nov. 24 (1-0) and Dec. 11 (5-2) –came during the Penguins’ NHL season-high 12-game winning streak (Nov. 17-Dec. 11, 2010). In the Nov. 24 contest, Marc-Andre Fleury denied all 30 shots he faced to earn his 17th career shutout. During the second period of Pittsburgh’s 3-2 win on Feb. 4, Evgeni Malkin suffered torn ACL and MCL injuries that ended his season. Dustin Jeffrey (3GP, 2G-1A), Pascal Dupuis (1G-3A) and Zbynek Michalek (1G-2A) led the Penguins with three points each. Fleury was the winning netminder in all four games, stopping 120-of-125 shots for a .960 GAA.
*- Since the 2007-08 season, the Penguins own a 15-4-1 record against the Sabres, including an 8-1-1 mark in Pittsburgh.
*Last year the Penguins and Sabres combined to kill off 31 of the 32 power plays (96.9%) in the season series: Pittsburgh, 11-of-12, 91.7%; Buffalo, 20-of-20, 100%.
*Tonight the Penguins will be wearing their dark blue third jerseys, the ones they debuted at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic. Last year the Penguins went 1-2 when they wore dark blue.
*The Penguins have recorded points in all five games this season and three of their first five games have advanced past regulation. Overall, 15 of the Penguins last 29 regular season games have gone to overtime.
*Pittsburgh comes into tonight’s game 16 of 17 (94.1%) on the PK, and gave up their first power play goal in the overtime of Thursday’s game.
*The Penguins have scored a special team goal in all five games (6 power play; 2 shorthanded). The Sabres have given up two shorthanded goals this season and that could be an area to watch tonight.
Player Stats Watch
*Marc Andre Fleury went 4-0 vs Buffalo last season and is 10-3-2 in his career vs Sabres.
*James Neal leads the Penguins with 4 goals, 2 power play goals, 20 shots on goal and since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, Neal has 17 goals and 31 points in 29 games during the month of October.
*Kris Letang leads all NHL defensemen with 6 points and is second among all defensemen with 5 assists. Letang leads the Penguins in points (6), assists (5), average ice time (27:03), rating (+3) and blocked shots (10).
*Richard Park (61.3%) and Joe Vitale (60.0%) lead the Penguins in face off percentage.
*Ryan Miller who won’t start tonight could be a good thing for the Sabres. Miller is 4-9-3 with a 3.25 goals against average and .886 save percentage in his career vs Pittsburgh.
*Zbynek Michalek is a team-worst minus-5 on the season and a minus-7 in his career vs Buffalo (10GP).
*Arron Asham has 7 goals and 19 points in 34 career games vs Buffalo.
*Paul Martin is a Plus-14 in 23 career games vs Buffalo.