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At the Rink blog

Kunitz, Neal return to Penguins' lineup

Tuesday, 03.18.2014 / 7:13 PM

By Wes Crosby - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Kunitz, Neal return to Penguins' lineup

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have two key forwards back in the lineup against the Dallas Stars at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.

Forwards Chris Kunitz (lower body) and James Neal (concussion), who missed Pittsburgh's past two games, returned to their normal positions during the Penguins' morning skate Tuesday and will return. Kunitz skated at left wing alongside forwards Sidney Crosby and Lee Stempniak while Neal returned to second-line right wing next to forwards Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen.

Neal and Kunitz also resumed their usual roles on the top power-play unit with Crosby, Malkin and defenseman Matt Niskanen. Kunitz rotated with Jokinen in front of the net on the power play.

"It feels good. It felt good again [Tuesday]," Neal said before the game. "We'll see how I feel this afternoon … It's my decision. If I feel right and feel like I'm back to normal, I'll go from there. That all comes from how I'm feeling.

"They're not going to clear me if I tell them I'm not feeling right."

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said each forward would have to be cleared by doctors in order to play Tuesday.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff did not specify if goalie Kari Lehtonen, who sustained a concussion March 8, will start. Goalie Tim Thomas has started the Stars' past three games. He surrendered four goals on 17 shots in Dallas' 7-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.

"[Lehtonen] is getting a full workload now, so he's close," Ruff said.

Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff will start for Pittsburgh. Zatkoff replaced goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the first period of the Penguins' 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday after Fleury allowed three goals on 15 shots.

Here are the expected lineups for the Stars and Penguins:

STARS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Valeri Nichushkin

Erik Cole - Travis Morin - Colton Sceviour

Antoine Roussel - Vernon Fiddler - Ryan Garbutt

Ray Whitney - Chris Mueller - Alex Chiasson

Alex Goligoski - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Brenden Dillon

Kevin Connauton - Sergei Gonchar

Kari Lehtonen

Tim Thomas

Scratched: Cody Eakin, Aaron Rome

Injured: Shawn Horcoff (upper body), Rich Peverley (cardiac event)

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak

Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal

Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Craig Adams

Tanner Glass - Marcel Goc - Brian Gibbons

Olli Maatta - Brooks Orpik

Rob Scuderi - Matt Niskanen

Robert Bortuzzo - Simon Despres

Jeff Zatkoff

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Deryk Engelland, Jayson Megna, Joe Vitale

Injured: Kris Letang (stroke), Paul Martin (broken hand), Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), Chris Conner (broken foot), Pascal Dupuis (ACL), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)

Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp