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.