Penguins notebook: Neal returns, but only briefly
By Rob Rossi
Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013, 6:12 p.m.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — James Neal's effort was the real deal on Saturday.
Still, he seems unlikely to return for Game 3 of the Penguins' opening-round playoff series against the New York Islanders.
His injured right ankle crammed into a skate boot, Neal tried to practice with the Penguins on Saturday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.
His participation lasted one drill, or about 15 minutes.
Neal had not taken the ice since leaving Game 1 on Wednesday. He was injured by a hit from New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic early in the second period of that contest.
Neal had not skated before Saturday, which for him began with an individual workout of about 10 minutes. During that session, for which he donned only a track suit, Neal tested his ankle with tight turns, starts-and-stops, and shooting and stick-handling work.
He is not expected to play for the Penguins in Game 3 on Sunday, though coach Dan Bylsma did not provide an update on Neal's status because of a new playoff policy on injured players.
The best-of-seven series is tied, 1-1.
The Penguins were without only two players for at least part of practice Saturday.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik and center Evgeni Malkin did not participate.
Malkin, who has been dealing with an ailing left shoulder for two months, did briefly play with the puck while not wearing full gear before practice. He received treatment from the Penguins' medical staff during the practice and is expected to play in Game 3.
Orpik could miss a fifth consecutive game dating to the last week of the regular season.
He was injured (lower body) on April 23 and had not resumed practicing until Wednesday for a pregame session. Orpik took a full practice on Thursday but has not participated since.
Without Orpik, the Penguins' annual hits leader among defensemen, the Penguins have been outhit in each of Games 1 and 2 by a combined 72-64.
Captain Sidney Crosby said he felt good a day after his first game since March 30.
He played in Game 2 on Friday night. Crosby scored twice and played more than 23 minutes.
Saturday marked five weeks since a puck hit him in the face, causing a broken jaw that required surgery and multiple oral procedures.
Crosby is wearing protective gear for his mouth. He is not sure if that gear will be required if the Penguins advance to Round 2.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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