The New York Rangers Carl Hagelin trips up James Neal during a game last month at the Consol Energy Center.
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins will eclipse 400 man-games lost this season when they play at Philadelphia today, and there will be a new name on the injury list.
Winger James Neal has a concussion, coach Dan Bylsma said Friday. That means Neal is out of the lineup indefinitely. His first hurdle will be getting free of concussion symptoms.
“You don’t know if you’re talking about one day, two days or much longer than that,” Bylsma said. “You hope the symptoms subside, and it’s shorter [rather than] longer.”
Neal, who plays right wing on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen, equaled Malkin’s 18 shifts Tuesday in a 2-0 win against Washington.
Bylsma said there was no indication Neal had a problem until he reported to Southpointe for practice Thursday, following the team’s day off Wednesday. Neal did not practice Thursday.
“He said he was not feeling normal,” Bylsma said. “He went to the doctor just after practice.”
Rookie Brian Gibbons filled in for Neal on Malkin’s line at practice Friday. Jokinen filled in for Neal on the top power-play unit.
After practice, the Penguins recalled rookie winger Jayson Megna from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. He has four goals, three assists in 24 NHL games this season.
Neal played only a few shifts of the season opener, then missed the next 15 games because of an unspecified injury. He also missed five games in December when he was suspended by the NHL.
Despite playing in only 44 games, he ranks fourth on the team with 49 points and, with 22 goals, is averaging a goal every other game. That puts him on the same pace as his personal-record 40-goal season in 2011-12.
This is the second season in a row Neal has gotten a concussion during the stretch run. He missed eight games last season, returning for the regular-season finale.
More from medical front
Top-line left winger Chris Kunitz, who also sat out Thursday, returned to practice Friday with full participation.
Kunitz crashed into the net in the game Tuesday night, hitting his left ankle or shin and his right leg above the knee on a goalpost. He did not retreat to the locker room and missed just one shift.
Meanwhile, defenseman Kris Letang skated in full gear before practice with conditioning coach Mike Kadar. Letang is recovering from a stroke. There is no timetable for his return.
No initiation for new Penguins is complete without the experience of a game against the Flyers. Three players who have joined the team since midseason will get not one but two chances to do that as the Penguins play a home-and-home series against Philadelphia this weekend.
“I’m pretty excited. I’m looking forward to it,” said winger Taylor Pyatt, claimed off of waivers from the New York Rangers in January.
“It’s got to be up there with all the big rivalries in the league. I don’t know a whole lot about it. I know there have been some good battles over the years, especially the playoffs a couple of years ago.”
The Flyers first-round upset of the Penguins in six games in 2012 stuck out to Marcel Goc, who along with fellow forward Lee Stempniak was acquired last week at the NHL trade deadline.
“I watched that playoff series a couple of years ago. It was very intense,” Goc said. “It’s got to be up there [as one of the top NHL rivalries]. The fans, uh, enjoy it.”
Pyatt has played for the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers and got to see that rivalry from both sides.
Stempniak has experienced the Calgary-Edmonton grudge matches, but he doesn’t recall a lot about the atmosphere.
“I tend to sort of block things like that out,” he said.
Stempniak doesn’t have a strong sense of what Penguins-Flyers games are about.
“I don’t know the history of it, but you see the highlights, see their hard-fought games,” he said.
A statue for Shero’s father
Penguins general manager Ray Shero is expected to attend a ceremony at 11 a.m. today when the Flyers will unveil an 8-foot, 1,300-pound bronze statue of his late father, Fred. The ceremony, free to the public, will be in front of the Spectrum Grill at Xfinity Live!, an entertainment district near Wells Fargo Center.
Fred Shero coached the Flyers for seven seasons, beginning in 1971-72, and led them to consecutive Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, with another trip to the Cup final in 1976.
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