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Phoenix coach tips his cap to Penguins' Neal, Niskanen

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By Josh Yohe
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett was an assistant coach in Dallas when right wing James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen entered the NHL. He isn't surprised to see the duo having success following their trade to the Penguins last season.

"There's a lot of players in this league who envy Nealer's position," Tippett said. "He's a young player that grew and comes in and gets to play with (Evgeni) Malkin. That's a great spot to be in. But the thing that makes Nealer special — there's a lot of people who get that opportunity. There's not many that take advantage of it. Nealer's taken advantage of it. He's a good player and a good person."

Tippett said the Penguins have used Niskanen perfectly.

"I don't think he's a front-line player," Tippett said. "He's a very good complementary player, just how they've used him here. The expectations, being a first-round pick in Dallas, maybe got out of whack after his early success. Sometimes change is good for a player."

> > Penguins right wing Tyler Kennedy returned to the lineup after missing one month with a high ankle sprain. He played on a line with center Joe Vitale and left wing Matt Cooke.

> > Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland did not play against Phoenix and is listed as "day-to-day" with a lower-body injury. He was replaced by Brian Strait.

> > Penguins defenseman Kris Letang visited doctors on Monday regarding the concussion symptoms he has been dealing with for the past few days. No report was given on his condition.

> > Penguins center Dustin Jeffrey was unavailable yesterday because of a 101-degree temperature that forced coach Dan Bylsma to send him home early from the morning skate.

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