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Penguins notebook: Neal, Kunitz return to lineup

| Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 8:27 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates with Chris Kunitz after Kunitz's first-period goal against the Stars on Tuesday, March 18, 2014, at Consol Energy Center.

Some familiar faces were back in the Penguins' lineup Tuesday.

Right wing James Neal (concussion) and left wing Chris Kunitz (leg injury) played against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday after missing two weekend games against Philadelphia.

Neal said he felt better over the weekend. After practicing with the Penguins on Monday and taking part in Tuesday's morning skate, he was cleared to play against his former team.

Neal was out three weeks late last season with a concussion.

He returned to his spot alongside center Evgeni Malkin and left wing Jussi Jokinen on the team's second line.

Kunitz was injured a week earlier when Washington defenseman Mike Green pulled him down while he was driving toward the net. Kunitz's leg slammed into the goalpost, forcing him to miss the two Philadelphia games.

Skating with no apparent problems against Dallas, Kunitz resumed his normal duties on the top line and top power play.

A couple of other injured players weren't ready to return to the lineup.

Right wing Beau Bennett, out since November with a broken wrist, continues to skate and is believed to be close to returning. Coach Dan Bylsma had said he wanted to see Bennett participate in a couple of full practices before he would be considered for a spot in the lineup.

Defensemen Kris Letang (stroke) and Paul Martin (broken hand) remain out of the lineup indefinitely.

No surprise

Tyler Seguin has found a starring role with Dallas.

Traded from Boston last summer, Seguin had 30 goals and 69 points before facing the Penguins.

He has centered Dallas' top line — a development that coach Lindy Ruff credited with helping Seguin develop into a top-level player in the league.

“His role here is different than with Boston: going back to the middle and his responsibilities down low,” Ruff said. “He's getting to play a lot of the time against teams' top line, and he's done a real nice job.

“He's got elite skill: skating skill, puck skill, stuff you can't teach. I knew that coming here. I just didn't know how he would handle the first year of being the guy playing in his own end and down low.”

Seguin, 22, was the second overall pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Boston acquired that selection in a trade with Toronto that sent winger Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs. Kessel and Seguin began Tuesday second and fourth in NHL scoring, respectively.

Olli being Olli

After having a difficult weekend against the Flyers, rookie defenseman Olli Maatta was back in strong form against Dallas.

Maatta, who played with a multitude of defense partners throughout the evening, finished with a team-high plus-3. He also led the Penguins with three blocked shots.

With one more goal, he will become the third member of the Penguins defense to have registered 10 goals this season. Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen have already notched 10 goals each.

Scratches

Forward Jayson Megna, who scored a goal Sunday, was a healthy scratch Tuesday along with left win Taylor Pyatt and defenseman Deryk Engelland.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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