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Neal Skates With Teammates, Remains Cautious

The Golden Knights' left wing broke his right hand with the Nashville Predators during the 2017 playoffs

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

Tuesday's preseason game won't count in the regular-season standings, although something that happened during the team's morning skate at City National Arena could have lasting significance on how the Golden Knights fare once games start counting.

James Neal, the team's most established forward, broke his right hand during Game 1 of last year's Western Conference Final when playing for the Nashville Predators. The 30-year-old remained in Nashville's lineup without missing a game - he played 11 games in total with the broken hand - through the Stanley Cup Final, instead electing for offseason surgery.

Earlier this month, there were thoughts that Neal could miss the start of this season with the Golden Knights, while still suffering from some after effects of his injury. 

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Although he was never expected to miss a substantial part of the season, it was still a good sign to see Neal participating in the team's morning skate on Tuesday.

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While still not cleared to play, it's a sign that Neal is starting to feel better, and is on track to return to Vegas' lineup early this season.

"It felt good," Neal said. "First time handling pucks, passing and being a part of drills. It's a process. The trainers are doing a great job with me. My legs felt good.

"It was a good start."

 

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Gerard Gallant also liked what he saw from Neal this morning. Neal scored 23 goals for Nashville last season, and has both 30 and 40-goal seasons during his nine-year NHL career.

"He just started skating with the smaller group yesterday," Gallant said. "He asked if he could skate with the game group tonight. He looked really good. He looked as if he hasn't missed a day."

Gallant admitted, however, that the team isn't feeling inclined to rush Neal back in time for the regular-season opener on October 6 in Dallas. This player is too important to the team's fortunes for the season, and Vegas will need Neal at 100 percent.

However long that takes.

We'll see how it goes. They're rehabbing him. He's working hard. Is it a possibility (on being in the lineup for the regular-season opener)? Yes. But is it going to happen? I don't know.

Neal added.

"One day at a time. All I can do is take it one day at a time."

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