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Welcome back: Martin returns to Pens lineup, Neal ‘ready to go’

Jan 20, 2014, 2:36 PM EDT

paulmartinap AP

The Pittsburgh Penguins are returning to health.

On Monday, club appeared primed to make two significant strides towards a full lineup, as defenseman Paul Martin — who’s been out since November — and forward James Neal sounded as though they’d make their returns against Florida.

Here’s the situation on Martin, from NHL.com:

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said three injured Penguins will return against Florida but did not specify which three. He said the returning players will give the Penguins eight healthy defensemen, indicating Martin, who has missed 23 games with a broken tibia, will return.

Although Martin was paired with Brooks Orpik at the morning skate, Bylsma said Martin will be eased into the lineup.

As for Neal, he declared himself “ready to go” after sitting out last Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Washington. Even though he only missed one game, Neal actually hasn’t played in nine days as the Pens are in the midst of one of the lightest parts of their schedule (Neal last played on Jan. 11 versus Calgary.)

Neal skated alongside usual linemates Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen this morning. Fellow forwards Jayson Megna and Chuck Kobasew also took the morning skate after missing time with lower-body injuries (six games missed for Kobasew, 13 for Megna.)

Should all these players return tonight, it’ll leave Pittsburgh with just seven players out to injury: Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Chris Conner, Andrew Ebbett, Brian Gibbons, Joe Vitale and Tomas Vokoun.

Related: Pens’ Dupuis to have ACL surgery Feb. 12

  1. jpelle82 - Jan 20, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    huge difference with neal in the lineup. pens were lucky to win the last couple. neal’s return should get the lines back to somewhat acceptable status again.

  2. lowenni - Jan 20, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    Neal was tearing it up before he got injured, I believe he had a point-per-game average that was better than Crosby’s and best in the league. He’s such a great complimentary player with his body and shot, he makes that top-6 and powerplay so dangerous, and he’s a very underrated part of that team. I do think he’s a bit of a dirty player however…either way, hope he cleans up his act and remains healthy.
    -a caps fan

    • c9castine - Jan 20, 2014 at 5:17 PM

      second best only to Sids. your right about his skills, really serious threat. only him, ovie, and stamkos can shoot the puck like that. the way it comes off those guys sticks and the accuracy they shoot with is something. actually, i don’t know if ovie even aims. he just hits the net as hard as he can and most goalies can’t see it to stop it.

      he was a bit dirty but pens management clamped down on him after boston he has a much calmer disposition on the ice and seems to be staying away from garbage now. hopefully it stays that way.

  3. penguins87and71 - Jan 20, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    So who is going to play RW on the 1st line?

    • c9castine - Jan 20, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      apparently kobasew. either megna isn’t quite ready, or is playing 3rd line. if he’s not ready, hell be there wednesday, and if he’s on the 3rd line, ill bet he’s playing 1st line right wing 10 minutes into the game.

      kobsew is just a body when you put him on the top line. much more effective bottom line player.

    • joey4id - Jan 20, 2014 at 6:00 PM

      Q: Will the Pens trade for a RW? Q: If so, who will they trade for?

  4. penguins87and71 - Jan 20, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    Hopefully Megna can get back soon. I just hope that the top line can be productive while Kobasew is filling in on the RW. Im starting to miss Dupuis.

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