Sullivan, Neal appear ready to go
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Wingers Steve Sullivan and James Neal returned to practice Monday after sitting out the Penguins' final two regular-season games while resting undisclosed minor problems. Each expects to play Wednesday in Game 1 of a first-round playoff series against Philadelphia at Consol Energy Center.
"It's good to get back out there, get the legs going, get the timing back and get ready for playoffs," Neal said. "I'll be ready to go Wednesday."
Sullivan, in fact, said he probably could have played Saturday in a 4-2 win against the Flyers in the regular-season finale.
At 37, Sullivan has never played more than 13 playoff games in a spring (and that was 1998-99 with Toronto), never gotten terribly close to winning a Stanley Cup.
"This is the best opportunity I've ever had, by far," he said. "I'm very excited, energized and just ready to go. These opportunities don't come along very often, so I want to try to make the best of my opportunity here."
Also at practice, with full clearance for all drills, was defenseman Ben Lovejoy, just 13 days after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
"I'm feeling good," Lovejoy said, adding that he considers himself ahead of schedule and could be ready to play before the end of the Flyers series.
"The doctors were very positive right away," he said.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen, who has an undisclosed injury, is skating separately from the team. It's not clear when he might get clearance to practice or play.
Winger Matt Cooke was given a maintenance day off from practice but is expected to rejoin the team today, coach Dan Bylsma said.
A glitch threatened to derail Neal's chances of being included among the NHL postseason All-Stars.
Neal switched to right wing this season but was still listed as a left winger in NHL stats computers. Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association who voted for him at right wing got emails asking for a different vote.
The situation was addressed, and Neal, who had 40 goals and led the league with 18 power-play goals, is eligible to receive votes as a right winger.
The All-Stars will be announced in conjunction with the league's major awards June 20 in Las Vegas.
The big screen is returning outside Consol Energy Center for fans to watch all Penguins playoff games.
The 16-foot-by-9-foot television will be set up in the Epiphany Catholic Church parking lot oriented toward Fifth Avenue. Fans can watch from the adjacent lawn and plaza along Washington Place.
In the past, NBC has shut down the screen during games it aired. But those issues have been resolved.
Chris Matcovich of ticket resale company TiqIQ reports this information, as of Monday:
The average ticket price for the Penguins-Flyers series is $205.40. For the games at Consol Energy Center, it's $267.77 (third in the NHL behind the Canucks at $432.16 and the Rangers at $403.84). The average price for the Penguins-Tampa Bay first-round tickets at Consol Energy Center a year ago was $209.66, so resale prices for their home games are up 27.7 percent.
Center and captain Sidney Crosby was named the NHL's No. 3 star for the final week of the season. He had three goals (two of them winners) and six points. Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith was the No. 1 star, Tampa Bay center Steve Stamkos the second star. ... Penguins winger/enforcer Steve MacIntyre was returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. MacIntyre was called up Saturday and played 8:37, the most ice time of his 12 NHL games this season. ... Flyers center Danny Briere and defenseman Nick Grossmann, who were hurt on separate hits April 1 by Joe Vitale of the Penguins, practiced. ... A large banner with the "Stanley Cup playoffs" and 2012 playoff logo was painted inside the blues lines on the Consol Energy Center ice before Penguins practice.
First Published April 10, 2012 12:01 am