Getting to skate on a line with Evgeni Malkin would be nice for most players in the league. For a talented guy like James Neal it’s been nothing short of magic for the Penguins this season and with Neal due to be a restricted free agent after the season, Pittsburgh’s brass wanted to make sure he stays in town.
The Penguins signed Neal to a six-year, $30 million extension to stay with the team and continue to ride shotgun on Malkin’s wing.
Penguins GM Ray Shero knew that the more Neal continued to pump in goals, the higher Neal’s price tag would rise. Rewarding him with a deal that will be worth $5 million a year against the cap works out well for both sides, especially if Neal keeps scoring goals the way he has this year.
With Sidney Crosby’s status seemingly always in the air and Jordan Staal missing time for a bit as well, Neal and Malkin have teamed up to provide the offense they would’ve otherwise missed out on this season. Neal himself has been a sniper the likes of which Pittsburgh hasn’t seen in town in a long time.
Laurent Brossoit will make his second career start in Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.
Brossoit will be between the pipes because starter Cam Talbot is ill and missed the morning skate.
The Oilers are hoping Brossoit isn’t as busy this time as he was in his first career start last year when he turned aside 49 shots in a 3-1 loss to San Jose.
“I’m a big believer in Brossoit,” said teammate Brandon Davidson, per the team’s website. “He’s done a great job. I played with him in the minors and he competes like no other. He’s tremendously athletic and he did a great job last year when he got the game too. He’s ready and I think he’ll show that tonight.”
The Jets will go with Ondrej Pavelec, who hasn’t played since Nov. 21 because of a knee injury.
–The Leafs have yet to announce their start. The Canucks haven’t named one either, but expect them to go with Ryan Miller.
—Craig Anderson will be between the pipes for Ottawa. The Blue Jackets will counter with Joonas Korpisalo.
–Like the Leafs and Canucks, the Islanders and Hurricanes have yet to announce their starting goaltenders. It could be Jaroslav Halak against Eddie Lack.
–Expect Pekka Rinne to get the start against the Panthers. Roberto Luongo, who was pulled on Friday, will be between the pipes for Florida.
—Braden Holtby will put his five-game winning streak on the line when Washington takes on Dallas. Kari Lehtonen will look to extend his winning streak to three games.
–The Ducks have yet to announce their start. The ‘Hawks will turn to Vezina Trophy candidate Corey Crawford.
—Louis Domingue will look to win his second straight game. Martin Jones will get the start for San Jose.
Shayne Gostisbehere is the proud owner of a new rookie record.
With his goal in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 OT loss to the Devils, the 22-year-old extended his point streak to 11 games, which is a record for rookie defensemen in the NHL.
Gostisbehere has an incredible 10 goals and 30 points in 35 games this season.
Gostisbehere’s goal tied the game at one after Devils forward Joseph Blandisi scored this beauty in the first period:
Adam Henrique added the game-winning goal in overtime.
It’s the second straight 2-1 victory for the Devils, who also beat the Oilers by the same score on Tuesday night.
The Flyers have just one win in their last five contests.
To add insult to injury, Philadelphia lost Michael Del Zotto to an upper-body injury, per GM Ron Hextall.
Here’s an updated look at the Metropolitan division standings and Wild Card race:
CHICAGO (AP) Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin is expected to play Saturday night against Anaheim after missing two games with an illness.
Panarin participated in Chicago’s optional morning skate, and coach Joel Quenneville says the rookie will be in the lineup against the Ducks.
The 24-year-old Panarin, who has played on Chicago’s second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane for most of the season, is second on the team with 34 assists and 52 points. The Blackhawks dropped both games while he was out.
Some good news/bad news for the Rangers.
Exactly one week after suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the ice with his teammates this morning.
The Rangers captain was wearing a non-contract jersey, but “looked good” according to coach Alain Vigneault.
McDonagh was hurt after taking a punch to the head from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (above).
The 26-year-old has missed each of his team’s last three games since suffering the injury.
McDonagh hasn’t been cleared for contact, but that could happen in the next few days according to Vigneault.
The news wasn’t as good for forward Rick Nash, who’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his leg.
Nash has missed each of New York last eight game’s and Vigneault admitted that he’s no longer considered day-to-day.
He’ll miss at least another week.