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Penguins notebook: Neal appeared to be knocked out, Dupuis says

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 7:42 p.m.

James Neal appeared to be temporarily knocked out by a hit from New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto, a Penguins teammate said Friday night.

Neal did not finish a 2-1 shootout win over the Rangers at Consol Energy Center after Del Zotto caught him with a backward forearm/elbow in the third period.

“It was a tough hit to watch,” right winger Pascal Dupuis said. “Especially when our guy seems knocked out on the ice.”

No penalty was called.

“I can't say that it was intentional. But the fact is, he elbowed him right in the chin. That's not good,” winger Craig Adams said. “You have to give the refs the benefit of the doubt. If they would have seen it, they would have called it.”

Neal was helped off the ice by the Penguins' training staff and wobbled to the dressing room. He was not available for comment after the game, per club policy on injured players.

“Don't have an update right now,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “I don't think there is any question what the contact was and where (Del Zotto) made contact.”

Del Zotto said he hoped Neal “was OK.”

“I think they just dumped (the puck) in, and I knew I was going to get hit on the forecheck,” Del Zotto said. “I just tried to kind of reverse hit and brace myself. I'm not sure exactly what happened.”

Dupuis took a run at Del Zotto after Neal left the ice.

Players from both teams conceded the game turned heated after the Del Zotto hit.

Neal is second on the Penguins with 18 goals. He has played left wing on a line with center Evgeni Malkin since right winger Jarome Iginla was acquired.

Neal has no concussion history since joining the Penguins in a trade from Dallas in February 2011 or during his NHL career.

All hits — penalized or not — are reviewed by the NHL Department of Player Safety and subject to review and/or hearing for supplemental discipline.

Letang tests toe

Kris Letang looks fine, but looks might be deceiving.

Letang missed a fifth consecutive game for the Penguins on Friday night. He broke a toe March 26 in a home win over Montreal and has not played since.

The injury seemingly has healed — at least it has mended enough for Letang to experiment with stopping passes with his skate boots during an on-ice individual workout Friday morning.

Letang has been skating with Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar, and his session Friday morning lasted about 45 minutes.

The original prognosis for Letang's recovery was a week to 10 days.

Letang also is dealing with a sore groin, an injury that caused him to miss three games from March 19-24.

The groin injury most concerns the Penguins. Letang's strength is his skating, and groins often do not fully heal without considerable rest.

Letang tested the groin Friday during drills designed to focus on his lateral movement while stick-handling the puck near the points. His skating during the workout mostly was limited to short bursts and quick starts and stops.

Letang, per club policy with injured players, was not available for comment.

Despite missing eight of nine games, Letang remains second among NHL defensemen with 28 points.

Crosby update

Captain Sidney Crosby missed a third consecutive game because of a broken jaw.

He continues to show no signs of concussion symptoms, coach Dan Bylsma said before the Penguins played the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center.

Crosby, who visited teammates and club personnel Thursday, has had surgery to repair his jaw and fix some teeth. Another dental surgery is likely.

There remains no timetable for his return. However, there is optimism within the organization that Crosby could play before the Stanley Cup playoffs if he continues to stave off a post-surgical infection that is common with oral procedures.

He was injured last Saturday when a puck hit him in the mouth.

Staal on trip

Marc Staal has accompanied the Rangers on their three-game road trip. He has not played since March 5 because of facial fractures near the eye where he was hit by a deflected puck.

Staal is working out off the ice, and there is a chance he could play if the Rangers qualify for the postseason.

He will wear a face shield upon his return, just as brothers Eric and Jordan do in Carolina. Eric and Jordan Staal each decided to don protective face gear at the urging of their mother after Marc Staal's injury.

The Staals will have a family reunion Saturday, as the Rangers play at Carolina.

Around the boards

Forward Jussi Jokinen made his debut with the Penguins and played center on the top line with wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. … Rookie defenseman Simon Despres was a healthy scratch. He is third among the Penguins' healthy defensemen with seven points and second with two goals.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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