The Penguins dodged a bullet on the injury front with forward James Neal
It was originally believed that Neal would be sidelined for “weeks, not days” with a broken foot suffered blocking a shot late in the third period on Jan. 7 against New Jersey.
But after further evaluation, it was determined the injury was actually a bone bruise and Neal, who partook in Tuesday’s morning skate, will be able to play as pain permits.
"I’m good to go tonight," Neal said.
Head coach Dan Bylsma also said Neal "is fine and able to go" and provided more details on the nature of the 24-year-old winger's situation.
“The preliminary tests done after the game indicated a fracture in his navicular area, a tough bone in a tough place to heal,” Bylsma said. “So a further test, the MRI, was done (Monday) and showed that what he had was a preexisting condition, possibly having done it when he was a small kid. It showed up as a crack on the X-ray, but the MRI showed it was not a break.
“So he does have a bruise on that particular spot, a bone bruise on that top, but his injury is just a play as pain permits for James right now.”
When asked how much swelling and pain there is in his foot, Neal responded that he feels "all right."
“I want to play and help the team,” he said. “If it can’t get any worse, then there’s no reason why I can’t play. It feels good in my skate and I’ll be ready to go tonight. Hopefully we can get over this little slump we’re in.”
He admitted that it is harder to walk than it is to skate, but no part of his game will be impeded by the injury and that getting to practice this morning helped.
“I’ll be the same way I was every other game,” he said. “It was a couple quick strides this morning to get used to it. I’ll be all right.”
Neal couldn't say enough about the relief he felt when hearing that his injury was nowhere near as devasting as originally thought – even though he joked that he has been dealing with a bit of grief from his teammates.
"It was obviously very disappointing when I first heard. It kind of took a day or two to let it set in," he said. "You get a second opinion and your whole mindset changes and you’re ready to go again. It’s great. Especially with the way we’re going right now, you don’t want anyone else to go down. We’ve got to get back on track here and it starts tonight."