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Penguins notebook: Injured Letang, Neal progressing nicely

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By Josh Yohe
Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

A couple of star Penguins are inching closer to a return to the lineup.

Defenseman Kris Letang (knee) and forward James Neal (upper-body) skated at Southpointe before the Penguins' workout Wednesday.

Letang skated for about 50 minutes, and Neal, who was skating for the first time in almost a week, skated for a shorter period. Forward Matt D'Agostini, who was injured early in training camp, also skated Wednesday.

Neal will not accompany the Penguins to Florida, and coach Dan Bylsma is still listing him as “week-to-week,” though he did say Neal is “a little better.”

The all-star right wing suffered an injury two days before the Penguins opened the season against New Jersey. He attempted to play on that night but aggravated the injury.

At that point, the Penguins made it clear that he would not be rushed back into the lineup.

Letang is making the trip to Florida and appears the closest of any of the injured Penguins to playing.

Unless Letang practices Thursday, though, he won't play.

“Kris needs to progress back to practice before we'd think about putting him in a game at this point in time,” Bylsma said.

Letang was injured two weeks ago during a team workout at West Point. He is expected to skate with defenseman Rob Scuderi when he returns to the lineup.

Bylsma said he isn't sure if D'Agostini will make the trip to Florida.

• Wednesday's practice at Southpointe, which lasted about an hour, was the Penguins' first of six October workouts at the facility. Other than Letang, Neal and D'Agostini, the entire team was healthy.

• Goalie Jeff Zatkoff is expected to receive his first NHL work this weekend. Although Bylsma isn't saying if Zatkoff will play in Florida or Tampa Bay, it seems certain that Zatkoff and Marc-Andre Fleury will split the goaltending duties during the road trip. “This would be a perfect spot for Jeff to play one of the games,” Bylsma said. Given that Tampa Bay features a more potent offense with the likes of center Steven Stamkos and right wing Martin St. Louis, it appears most likely that Zatkoff will play against struggling Florida.

— Josh Yohe

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