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Neal snaps scoring drought with three-point game

Monday, March 12, 2012

• Right wing James Neal's teammates have jokingly reminded him that, since agreeing to a six-year, $30 million contract on Feb. 19, he had gone nine games without scoring in regulation. Neal made sure all those jokes came to an end after recording a goal and two assists in Sunday's 5-2 win against Boston. "Yeah, it's tough," Malkin said while laughing. "He signed a big contract and (did) not score in last, I don't know, seven games. Of course it's important for him to score, and I hope he starts scoring every game. He can, and he did a great job." Neal was excited to see the team's top line find its groove following a quiet week. "You don't like to say it," Neal said, "but it's hard to be that good every night. We try to be like that. As long as you stay positive, it's going to come back." Malkin earned the 500th point of his career on a first-period assist.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma believes his team can catch the New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division standings. To catch the Rangers, Bylsma warned that much work remains. The Penguins and Rangers play twice more this season, and Bylsma figures the Penguins need to win both contests to give themselves a legitimate chance at claiming the No. 1 seed. "I still think we need to win all three of these games, starting with the one we already won (on Feb. 21)," Bylsma said. "We expect the Rangers to win hockey games, too."

• Defenseman Deryk Engelland made a surprising return to the lineup against Boston and played 19:58 in the 5-2 victory. He said a day earlier that he likely wouldn't return to the lineup until Thursday in New York, because the extra three days would help his lower-body injury recover.

• The Penguins demoted defensemen Simon Despres and Brian Strait to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after yesterday's game. The two were recalled in recent days to strengthen a lineup missing Kris Letang (concussion symptoms) and Paul Martin (illness). Despres played against Boston, but Strait was scratched.




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