As great as James Neal has been this season, it’s understandable that he’s gotten lost in the All-Star Game shuffle thanks to his distracting Pittsburgh Penguins teammates.
Evgeni Malkin’s world-beating ways, Sidney Crosby’s concussion nightmare, Matt Cooke’s tomfoolery and other attention grabbing bits allowed Neal to slip under the radar ever so slightly.
That might not happen much longer, however, as Neal could be one of the late All-Star Game additions according to Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Anderson reports that Neal was under serious consideration to take Jonathan Toews’ vacated spot but Scott Hartnell won via “seniority.” (I would have preferred “sillier hair” as the official reason, but that’s fine.)
It would be rather interesting if Neal ends up joining his former Dallas Stars teammate Jamie Benn in the 2012 All-Star Game. The Stars essentially decided that Neal was expendable because of Benn’s development last season in the Alex Goligoski trade, yet each budding star has experienced the best campaigns of their careers.
(Oh, and both are in the last season of their current contracts, too.)
Neal is second in the league with 27 goals and has a nice 47 points in 49 games. He leads the league with 210 shots, which works out to an average of about 4.3 per contest. In other words, he wouldn’t be out of place with the NHL’s best this weekend if it happens.
No, the Nashville Predators did not forget how to score goals … or at least they were lifted from that amnesia on Wednesday.
Mike Fisher lifted the curse 13:52 into the first period of tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. You can watch that rare beast in the video above.
They had been shut out for three straight games and pretty close to four in pure game time.
On this subject, PHT’s Jason Brough asked Predators GM David Poile if he was considering moving a defenseman to improve in another area earlier today.
Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.
Perhaps some of that has to do with health?
Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.
The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.
“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”
He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.
You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.
Here are the handy links for the two contests.
First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.
Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.
“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”
Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.
Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.
Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.
Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer