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Neal, Sullivan ready to go for Penguins

Monday, 04.09.2012 / 7:56 PM

By Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent / Penguins vs. Flyers series blog

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Penguins vs. Flyers series blog
Neal, Sullivan ready to go for Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- Dan Bylsma skated onto the ice Monday for the Pittsburgh Penguins' first practice in advance of their Stanley Cup Playoffs series against Philadelphia and was greeted by an uncommon sight.
 
All of his forwards were in uniform , healthy and ready to go -- including James Neal and Steve Sullivan.
 
James Neal
During a season in which star Sidney Crosby missed 60 games with concussion-related issues, Tyler Kennedy was out for 22 games, Jordan Staal sat out 20 and Neal and Sullivan were sidelined for the final two games, Bylsma rarely had all four lines healthy at the same time.
 
Evgeni Malkin even missed seven games early in the season, although he still managed to easily win the scoring title by 12 points over Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay.
 
Neal, whose 40 goals ranked fourth in the League, and Sullivan, who had a 48-point season, each missed games Thursday against the Rangers and Saturday against the Flyers with lower-body injuries.
 
"We saw Sullivan and Neal return to practice and play on the lines they played on three games ago and will be playing on for the start of Game 1," Bylsma said.

That means Neal goes back onto the Malkin line with Chris Kunitz, where he has played nearly all season, while Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis will be the wings on Sidney Crosby's line.
 
"It was good to get back out there and get the legs going, get your timing back and get ready for playoffs," said Neal, who had one goal in seven playoff games against Tampa Bay last spring.

Asked whether his condition was a concern with the start of the playoffs so close, Neal said, "No, it's fine. I'll be all right. I had a good week of rest. That's what I needed and I'll be ready to go, 100 percent."
 
Sullivan felt he could have played Saturday but, since that game did not affect the Penguins' playoff seeding, he was held out.
 
"Awesome," Sullivan said when asked how he is feeling. "I'm ready to go."
 
Sullivan signed with the Penguins before the season started in part because he has never lifted the Stanley Cup since breaking into the NHL with New Jersey during the 1995-96 season.
 
"It's probably the best opportunity that I've had," Sullivan said. "I think I'm very excited, energized and ready to go. These opportunities don't come along very often, so I'm going to make the best of my opportunity here."

Defenseman Matt Niskanen's status for Game 1 at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday is uncertain. He missed the final two regular season games with an upper-body injury, and he didn't practice Monday although he skated on his own.
Quote of the Day

Just the feel for the direction they were headed and what they're trying to do, it just felt that this is a really good thing for this organization. They've got the pieces. We can put something together and go on a run or two and be together for a while, and I'm really excited about that opportunity. The team we have here has an opportunity to win, and that's the most attractive thing.

— Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen on why he decided to sign with the Capitals