First Call: Oilers’ James Neal is hot, Colts hurting, plenty of Bryce Harper mockery |
Breakfast With Benz

First Call: Oilers’ James Neal is hot, Colts hurting, plenty of Bryce Harper mockery

Tim Benz
Edmonton Oilers left wing James Neal (18) after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Thursday’s “First Call” features another goal for James Neal, news from Indianapolis’ training room, Baker Mayfield avoids a fine, and Bryce Harper mockery.

New Look Neal

James Neal is heating up again. And just in time for his return to Pittsburgh.

The high-scoring winger will join the rest of his Edmonton Oilers teammates at PPG Paints Arena Saturday afternoon for a 1 p.m. faceoff.

They come in atop the Pacific Division at 9-4-1. That’s good for 19 points, best in the Western Conference.

Neal has 11 goals. Only Boston’s David Pastrnak and teammate Leon Draisaitl have more. Neal’s eight power-play goals are the most in hockey.

The former Penguin added his latest on the man-up unit Wednesday night in Columbus.

Neal had nine goals in his first eight games. But then he grinded through a lull when he only had one goal in five games. Now he has scored twice in his last three outings and has points in three of his last four games.

All this comes after a nightmare season for Neal in Calgary where he only scored seven times in 63 games.

Edmonton’s power play is clicking at 29.3%. That’s good for third-best in the NHL and tops in the Western Conference.

Indy injuries

The Steelers won’t be the only team at Heinz Field dealing with injuries.

Five regular contributors to the Indianapolis Colts didn’t participate in practice Wednesday.

Denico Autry (DT-neck), Kenny Moore (CB-knee), Pierre Desir (CB-hamstring), Jabaal Sheard (DE-foot) and Khari Willis (S-foot) all sat out.

Offensive stars T.Y. Hilton (WR-calf) and Quenton Nelson (OG-hip) were also limited.

One for Baker

Wednesday wasn’t great for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. He got into a verbal sparring match with a reporter and walked out of his interview session, and people started comparing him to Ryan Leaf.

That, and his team is still 2-5.

But at least he avoided another NFL fine.

Mayfield had been fined recently for criticizing officiating in the wake of his team’s loss to Seattle.

When he was asked about the fine, Mayfield basically dared the NFL to do it again by complaining about their fine process.

But according to, Mayfield didn’t get a fine this time.

So Baker’s day wasn’t entirely bad.

Unhappy Harper

After seven years and four playoff appearances, former MVP Bryce Harper left the Washington Nationals for the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason.

To the tune of a $330 million free-agent contract.

But even all that money can’t buy-off Twitter. And the mockery is thick Thursday morning after his former team won the World Series in its first year without Harper in the locker room.

Meanwhile Harper’s Phillies were 81-81.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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