Penguins winger James Neal returned to practice Sunday for the first time since he sustained a concussion April 5 -- if only for 18 minutes.
Coach Dan Bylsma noted that Neal "joined us for just a few drills," but added, "That would be an indication of him moving along in his protocol."
Neal, who has missed the past five games, remains symptom-free.
He was one of four injured players who skated before practice at Southpointe. The others were centers Evgeni Malkin (shoulder, three games) and Sidney Crosby (jaw, eight games) and defenseman Paul Martin (hand, nine games).
Malkin, who has been practicing with the team, returned to the ice for practice as Neal did, but Malkin stayed for the full session. Bylsma, though, said the injured players were not expected to travel to Ottawa for the game tonight and instead will skate today in Pittsburgh.
Defenseman Kris Letang did not practice. Bylsma said Letang was ill. There were indications that Letang did not travel to Ottawa.
The game tonight will be the Penguins' first in Ottawa since Feb. 13 when Senators star defenseman Erik Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy winner, got hurt. Penguins winger Matt Cooke accidentally cut Karlsson's Achilles tendon with his skate blade.
There have been sore feelings toward the Penguins and Cooke -- particularly from Senators owner Eugene Melnyk -- and those might rise even more to the surface considering Karlsson, recovering from surgery, has just resumed practicing. There even is a small chance he will return tonight.
So even though Ottawa has not clinched a playoff spot and needs points, there would seem to be at least some possibility that things could turn unruly.
"I don't have a concern in that regard," Bylsma said.
Yet the Penguins on Thursday recalled enforcer Steve MacIntyre from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. He has not played in the NHL this season. He played in 12 games with the Penguins last season.
MacIntyre was a healthy scratch Saturday at Boston and said he doesn't know whether he will be in the lineup tonight.
Either way, he has no qualms about what to do should the Penguins need his specialty.
"I don't think [my role] really changes, wherever I go," he said. "They brought me up to be a good soldier. I think the writing's on the wall.
"I'm not 100 percent sure [what will happen]. I do my thing. If they need me, they need me. If they don't, just do the best that I can."
Bylsma nears milestone
Bylsma has a record of 199-91-25, all with the Penguins, and seems a lock to become the fastest NHL coach to reach 200 wins. If he gets his 200th tonight, Bylsma will have done it in 316 games. Anaheim's Bruce Boudreau, formerly with Washington, got to 200 in 326 games which is the current record, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"It's something I looked at in the offseason, and when the shortened schedule [was announced after the lockout], I thought it probably was not going to be a possibility," Bylsma said. "We set our sights on the number of wins we thought we would need to be successful this year. That was around 30 to 32 wins. That came up short of the 200 mark."
But the Penguins have 34 wins with four games left in this 48-game schedule.
Bylsma credited his players, particularly their 15-game winning streak earlier this season, for nudging him to within reach of 200 this season. But he's aware that's not enough to put him in the ranks of the all-time coaching leaders in the league.
"I look at the big guys and they've won 500 [or more]," Bylsma said. "Whoa. Two hundred -- certainly looking at, hopefully, getting that win, but got a long way to go in winning hockey games."
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly First Published April 22, 2013 4:00 AM