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James Neal Reflects On Lessons Learned From Playing With Evgeni Malkin

Neal and Malkin played on a line with the Penguins from 2010-14.

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

It might be the most unique relationship that James Neal has ever had in hockey.

Neal, the winger, from Ontario. His center, the inimitable Evgeni Malkin, from Russia.

While these two players from far different backgrounds were first united when Neal was traded to Pittsburgh from the Dallas Stars in 2010, they quickly meshed.

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Both on the ice and off the ice.

In Neal's four years with the Penguins, he mostly played on a line with Malkin, where both players enjoyed their best success as pros. Neal had a career-best 40 goals and 81 points while playing on a line with Malkin in 2011-12. Malkin had 109 points that year and won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP.

These two players, together, were the most lethal combination in the league.

Speaking on Thursday morning at City National Arena, Neal said there were two things that he most learned when playing with Malkin.

Watch: Youtube Video

 

The art of getting open.

And…

Russian profanity.

Both were part of the duo's success.

"He's just one of those guys that wants the puck all the time," Neal said. "For me, it was get him the puck as much as possible. With his ability to feed me and my ability to shoot the puck, it worked really well.

"I just got open as much as I could. I'd just get him the puck as fast as I could because I knew I was going to get it back Wherever I was on the ice, it was coming back.

"Just their speed, the way they practice. The way they handle the puck and their ability to do things. It makes everybody better around them. That's the craziest thing, how good they are in practice. Sid is on a different level every day.

"You learn stuff every day."

 

Video: VGK@NSH: Neal pots one-timer in return to Nashville

 

The profanity, Neal says, was part of the partnership that he also quick picked up.

"If things weren't working or if we didn't get each other the puck or something, you'd hear a few Russian swears," Neal said. "It was all in good fun. I'm sure you can see it now with how he is with Phil Kessel. Two good players, they want the puck at different times. They wear the emotions on their sleeves. A minute later, it's all good.

"It started on the ice and it led to the bench, and down the bench."

Neal says he hasn't swore in Russian once since his trade from the Penguins to the Nashville Predators in 2014.

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