Ever since Monday, James Neal and Matt Niskanen must have felt like they were living their own version of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” They were both traded on Monday evening in exchange for ex-Pen blueliner Alex Goligoski. Upon hearing of the trade, the Pens arranged for a flight that night to get the pair of ex-Stars to Pittsburgh as soon as possible. The plan was to have them gear up for a practice on Tuesday to get acclimated to their new teammates and coaching staff before entering the line-up for tonight’s game against the Sharks. Well, like Robert Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men…”
The good news is they finally arrived in Pittsburgh. The bad news? It was a day late. At least Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is keeping a sense of humor about the whole ordeal:
“Head coach Dan Bylsma joked that he hoped they “didn’t think they got traded to the Devils.” Ironically, the Devils were on the road Tuesday night – facing the Dallas Stars.
“We want them here,” Bylsma said on Tuesday. “And they wanted to try and get in a car and get here so they could be here for practice (Tuesday), but it just wasn’t plausible with the weather.”
Neal and Niskanen finally arrived in Pittsburgh late Tuesday afternoon. They went straight to CONSOL Energy Center where they quickly got a physical and had a shortened practice with Bylsma and assistant coach Todd Reirden.”
With all of the injuries the Penguins have had up front to their high-end skill players, James Neal’s arrival couldn’t come soon enough. Evgeni Malkin is out for the year and Sidney Crosby is still recovering from the concussion he received over the first couple of days of 2011. Any time a team loses that kind of firepower, they will welcome any help that is on the way. James Neal and his 21 goals this season are exactly the kind of help the Penguins need right now.
In Neal, the Penguins will get a 23-year-old winger who has already scored 20+ goals three different times in his career. Obviously, the Penguins have to be ecstatic that they were able to finally add a capable scoring winger to go along with their superstar center duo. If the Whitby, ON native produces like he has thus far in his career, the Penguins may have finally found the answer at wing that they’ve been looking to find for years.
It’s no secret that the Pens will be looking to him to add a shot of adrenaline into an offense that has been anemic as of late. The horrible fact for Penguins fans is that their team hasn’t scored more than 3 goals since a 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, that was back on January 18. In the month since then, the Pens are averaging 2.1 goals per game. Obviously, that’s not going to get it done.
Upon his arrival in the Steel City, Neal is saying all of the right things after his initial meeting with the Penguins coaches.
“I want to do the same thing I’ve done throughout my career, and obviously that’s put the puck in the net. There’s no added pressure to do that. Hopefully, I’ll find a way.”
I’m sure Ray Shero hopes he’ll find a way as well.