GAME DAY REPORT --Sam Kasan
PENSTV SOUNDJames Neal Chris Kunitz Sidney Crosby --Sam Kasan
Will it be Tim Thomas (above) or Kari Lehtonen in net today?
Tyler Seguin has 5 goals and 11 points in his last 5 games
Proceed with Connauton--Sam Kasan & Addison Smith
QUOTE 'EM--Sam Kasan & Addison Smith
NEAL FEELING GOOD AFTER TWO PRACTICES
Penguins winger James Neal participated in the team’s morning skate, handling his normal duties on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen and working with the top power-play unit.
Neal, 26, missed the Pens’ last two games with a concussion. He still need to be cleared by doctors to play tonight against the Dallas Stars, but just his presence at practice is a good sign of his progression.
“I felt good again today," Neal said. "We’ll see how I feel this afternoon. I still need to be cleared to play. That’s the next step.”
Even if the doctors clear Neal to play, it is ultimately his decision. And that will depend on how he feels.
“It’s my decision if I feel right, feel good and feel back to normal. I’ll go from there,” he said. “That all comes from how I’m feeling. They’re not going to clear me if I tell them I’m not feeling right. I felt good today. I felt good all day yesterday. Moving in the right direction.”
Neal informed the team that he wasn't feeling well last Thursday morning, March 13. He was held out of practice and visited doctors. He was diagnosed with the concussion.--Sam Kasan
KUNITZ TALKS HIS PROGRESS
While Chris Kunitz skated in his normal spot next to Sidney Crosby and Lee Stempniak this morning during line rushes and practiced on the first power-play unit – both signs that he could be in the lineup tonight against Dallas – the winger said there are still steps to be taken before he is cleared to play.
“Things are progressing,” said Kunitz, who was cleared to return to full practice on Monday after missing both games of the home-and-home series with the Flyers over the weekend. “Hopefully react well later today. Still have to talk with the trainers and doctors and see what they think.”
Kunitz has tried to make practice situations as game-like as possible to prepare himself for a return. For example, today he battled hard in front of the net with defenseman Deryk Engelland during drills.
"It’s tough when practice has been a little light," Kunitz said. "You want to make sure that if you’re going to play, you want to be able to play at 100 percent and go out and play the way you normally do. You don’t want to be just a slim version of what you usually do."
Saturday marked the first time this season that Kunitz missed a game due to injury. In fact, it snapped a streak of 209 consecutive regular-season appearances for Kunitz dating back to March 8, 2011.
He suffered the lower-body injury last Tuesday (March 11) against Washington when he was knocked over by Caps defenseman Mike Green while on a semi-breakaway and slammed his legs off the goalpost while in mid-air.
Despite being in obvious pain, Kunitz eventually skated the bench and ended up missing just one shift in the game. However, he started feeling the effects of his crash later on, which kept him out of both contests against Philly. The doctors told him they would re-evaluate him on Monday and would go from there.
“It was sore. I felt myself hobbling around out there a little bit, but probably a little bit of adrenaline just trying to kick in,” Kunitz said. “Then (the injury) developed and got a little more sore, and didn’t think it was going to be strong enough to be able to go out and play on the weekend.
“Told me re-evaluate on Monday and then we’re at today now, so hopefully things will be good and obviously I want to be out there helping my teammates and turn this ship around.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to go today.”--Michelle Crechiolo
Head coach Dan Bylsma gave an update on the Pens' lineup for tonight and their injury situation...
- Neal and Kunitz need to be cleared by doctors before a decision can be made on their status.
- The lineup will be a game-time decision
- Jeff Zatkoff will start
How amazing is it to see this guy on the ice?
He's Goc-ta go!!
Bennett goes Jordan with the tongue.
Pens waddle together. Ride or die.
Happy birthday to this guy!! Bortuzzo turns 25.
Malkin-machine--Sam Kasan & Addison Smith
MORNING SKATE INFO
All the Pens healthy players were back on the ice, including Olympians Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jussi Jokinen, Brooks Orpik and Olli Maatta who were all given a maintenance day on Monday.
Chris Kunitz and James Neal both took their normal line rushes at the morning skate and worked with the top power play unit, a good sign that they may return to the lineup after a two-game absent each.
Here is the rest of the workflow...
Glass-Goc-Gibbons (3G line)
The defensemen rotated. Letang did take some rushes with Engelland, though that's no indication that he'll play. More likely that Engelland may not be in the lineup.
PP1: Malkin, Niskanen on top. Neal, Crosby, Kunitz up front.
PP2: Despres, Maatta on top. Jokinen, Sutter, Stempniak. --Sam Kasan
The Pens will play Dallas for the second and final time this year. Here's a scouting report on the Stars from Michelle Crechiolo (spoiler: Seguin is killing it). --Sam Kasan
Just absolutely amazing news from the Pens Monday. Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke Jan. 29, had a full practice with the team. This is great progress for Kris as a hockey player, but more importantly, it shows how much his health has improved.... there is no timeframe or date set for his return to game action. But Letang didn’t hide the fact that his goal is to play for the Penguins again this season.
“I was on the ice today because I want to return,” Letang said. “I’ll be able to play again. I don’t know when.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma reiterated Letang’s status as being undetermined.--Sam Kasan
Full story here.
VISUAL AID--Sam Kasan (stick tap: Christine Mina for the graphic)
START THE DAY
Good morning hockey fans! Tonight the Pens host the Dallas Stars at CONSOL Energy Center. Pittsburgh is hoping to shake off a two-game sweep from the Philadelphia Flyers over the weekend. James Neal (concussion) and Chris Kunitz (lower-body) skated in Monday's practice
and their status for tonight is unknown yet. Hopefully, we'll learn more as the day progresses.
- The Penguins wrap up the season series against the Dallas Stars (TV: ROOT SPORTS; Radio: 105.9 the X) at CONSOL Energy Center.
- Despite Sunday’s loss, the Penguins are 17-2-2 in their last 21 home games.
- Pittsburgh will be looking to avoid losing three straight regulation games for the first time since Nov. 6-13.
- The Penguins are looking to even the season series against the Stars after suffering a 3-0 loss on Jan. 25.
- Pittsburgh is 7-2 in its last nine games against the Stars.
- Here in Pittsburgh, the Penguins have a five-game winning streak against Dallas.
Stick tap: Pens PR
To open the day we'll go back to the late 90s. Here is one of my favorite groups from high school, Texas is the Reason (though I know, they aren't from Texas). Their album "Do You Know Who You Are?" is centered around the JFK assassination (sort of). Every track on the album has a title referencing the assassination, though the actual songs have nothing to do with JFK. We'll open the day with "Back and to the Left." That's back...and to the left. Back...and to the left.
Enjoy. --Sam Kasan