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Pens Roundup: Kunitz, Neal Updates

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins wingers Chris Kunitz and James Neal were absent from Thursday’s practice at Southpointe, and head coach Dan Bylsma said after the skate that they are “both maintenance days at this point in time.”

However, Bylsma added that since they are “dealing with bumps and bruises … we’ll re-evaluate (Friday) and hopefully see them both back with us.”

While Bylsma doesn’t see either player losing games as of now, he reiterated that they would know more Friday and then Saturday heading into Pittsburgh’s home-and-home series with the Flyers on March 15-16.

While on a semi-breakaway early in the third period of Pittsburgh’s 2-0 over Washington on Tuesday, Kunitz was knocked over by Caps defenseman Mike Green on his way to the net and slammed his legs off the goalpost. Despite being in obvious pain, Kunitz was eventually able to skate the bench. He missed just one shift while talking to head athletic trainer Chris Stewart and returned to play the rest of the period.

When asked if he was concerned that Kunitz would start feeling the effects of his collision the next day despite returning to play, Bylsma replied in the affirmative.

“The collision he had at the net, you know you're going to be dealing with a contusion or you're going to be dealing with a heavy blow to the leg,” Bylsma said. “He hit his ankle first on the one skate and then we saw him hit above the knee on the second one. So yes, you think he probably wasn't feeling too good (Wednesday). Better during the game and not as well (Wednesday) and still dealing with it (Thursday).”

Brian Gibbons slotted into Kunitz’s spot during drills today, while Beau Bennett filled in for Neal. Here’s how the Pens lines looked…


Deryk Engelland rotated with the defensemen.

After sweeping their home-and-home series with the Capitals on Monday and Tuesday, the Penguins did not practice on Wednesday. It was a much-needed day away from the ice, for Sidney Crosby especially - considering the captain played all the way to the gold-medal game of the Olympics over in Russia last month before embarking on the longest road trip of the season (five total games) upon returning to Pittsburgh.

"A day doesn’t feel like that much, to be honest with you," he laughed.

But despite that, Crosby said his legs feel fine. It's the rest part he needs to work on.

"I think you have to make sure that you’re managing everything, keeping your shifts short," he said. "I think the sleep is kind of more the goal right now. So if I get that figured out, I’m sure everything else will be good (laughs). But the legs, the body feels pretty good (knocks on wood), so just kind of keep managing it."
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