NEW YORK -- The Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed some extra energy during their pregame skate Wednesday heading into a divisional matchup against the rival New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS2). Some of that extra jump came courtesy of a standout player rejoining the team following a long absence.
All-Star forward James Neal skated in part of the morning skate, mostly participating in conditioning drills. Neal hasn't played since Oct. 3, when he skated 3:49 against the New Jersey Devils and left with an upper-body injury.
Neal, along with injured forward Beau Bennett, stayed on the ice after practice to continue conditioning work, with Neal joking as he walked to the Penguins locker room that he needed a stretcher following the intense workout.
Bennett, out since Oct. 12 due to a lower-body injury, could be back as soon as the weekend; there remains no timetable for Neal's return.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged the mere presence of these players trying to work their way back was uplifting.
"James in particular," Bylsma said. "We've missed both those guys for extended periods of times. Having James on the ice, even in small quantities this morning, there was a lot of jump in a lot of guys' step seeing James out there."