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Neal takes all-star snub in stride

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Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012
 

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Penguins right wing James Neal said he intends to use his All-Star Game snub as motivation for the second half of the season.

When asked if the slight could ignite a hot streak, Neal nodded.

"Of course," he said. "Any time you don't get picked for something like that, it's disappointing when you're up there (for consideration)."

Many of his teammates said they were surprised Neal was omitted from the game in Ottawa on Jan. 29. Center Evgeni Malkin is the team's lone representative.

Coach Dan Bylsma said he thought Neal's first half would warrant an selection. The 24-year-old forward is leading the team with 21 goals, which ranks sixth in the NHL. His 10 power-play goals are tops in the league.

"I was surprised not to see him on there," Bylsma said. "His goal total, and what he's done in the first half, I was hoping to see him on that list."

Bylsma has noted on numerous occasions that Neal is not exclusively a goal scorer but rather a solid all-around player. Even when Neal struggled last season, scoring just two goals in 27 games for the Penguins after a trade, Bylsma praised his skating, ability to produce consistent scoring opportunities and defensive work.

Neal took the news that he wasn't selected in stride.

"We've got bigger things to worry about here," he said. "We just want to get back on track and start playing good hockey again."

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