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Penguins notebook: Neal to practice soon

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi trips Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz during the second period Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

NEW YORK — Right winger James Neal is pushing to practice with the Penguins.

Coach Dan Bylsma said Wednesday morning that could happen soon.

“I don't anticipate him rejoining practice until probably Friday,” Bylsma said of Neal, about whom a return-to-practice date had not been made public.

Neal joined Penguins teammates on the ice for the first time since Oct. 3, when an upper-body injury was re-aggravated in the Penguins' season-opening win over New Jersey. He avoided most drills but took shots on goalies and made and received passes Wednesday.

He missed a 15th consecutive game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Without Neal — and injured replacement Beau Bennett (lower body), whom Bylsma said should play at St. Louis on Saturday night — the Penguins had lacked production from whoever was the right winger on their second scoring line. Before facing the Rangers, that player had scored only a goal and recorded two assists.

Neal, who worked out on his own after practice Wednesday, has skated the past three days.

“Given his skate the last two days, in particular how he responded to getting back on the ice Monday, it's good progression,” Bylsma said.

Still going

Left winger Chris Kunitz played against the Rangers after missing two consecutive days of practice for maintenance.

He has played in 160 consecutive regular-season games dating to March 8, 2011, and that streak is fourth among teammates. Center Brandon Sutter has played in 242 consecutive games, leading forward Craig Adams (222) and right winger Pascal Dupuis (215.)

Crosby knows

Captain Sidney Crosby said he has reached out to former Canadian Olympic teammate Rick Nash, who missed a 12th consecutive game for the Rangers on Wednesday because of a concussion. Crosby sent Nash a text message recently.

“It's a unique injury,” Crosby said.

Nash was injured by a hit from San Jose's Brad Stuart on Oct. 8.

The Rangers have declined comment regarding treatment sought by Nash. There have been reports of him seeing concussion specialists.

Crosby said the cloud of uncertainty and fallout that follows a concussion diagnosis — and the lack of similarities between one concussion and another — “can definitely make it a tough thing to go through.”

“You just don't have a lot of answers,” Crosby said.

Crosby missed all but eight games from Jan. 5, 2011, to March 15, 2012, because of concussion symptoms.

Around the boards

Rangers center J.T. Miller, a Coraopolis native, played against the Penguins for the second time in his young NHL career. Miller, 20, was a healthy scratch in New York's previous contest. … Winger Matt D'Agostini was a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game.

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

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