PITTSBURGH -- Penguins forward James Neal doesn't have to convince coach Dan Bylsma he can be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL. Persuading the Penguins' fans might take a little while longer.
Neal, acquired from Dallas late last season to add a reliable scorer to the Sidney Crosby line, never got to play alongside Crosby because of the concussion that sidelined the Penguins' captain during the second half of the 2010-11 season. Neal, pressing to prove to Pittsburgh that he could be the scorer he was in Dallas, wound up with only one goal in 20 regular season games and another in the playoffs after producing 21 goals in 59 games with the Stars.
Regardless, teammate Jordan Staal said, "I think personally Neal is going to do some great things this year."
Some of those once-skeptical fans must feel the same way, as they gave Neal a warm ovation during the first day of training camp on Saturday.
Staal believes that going through an entire training camp and season with the Penguins will prove far less stressful to Neal than making a hasty switch in teams and conferences late in a season. Bylsma concurs.
"He scored more goals than Tyler Kennedy last year, and Tyler Kennedy had a breakout year," Bylsma said, referring to Kennedy's 21-goal season. "To our fans, the feeling isn't the same because we didn't see him score those goals in our jersey. James Neal is a plus 20-goals scorer and we think he can get to 30."