Pittsburgh’s Neal (lower body) on Game 1 status: “I’ll be ready to go”


After missing the final two games of the regular season with an unspecified lower-body injury, Pittsburgh winger James Neal reassured the Pens faithful that he’s in for Game 1 against Philly — as if there was any doubt.

“It’s good to get back out there, get the legs going, get the timing back and get ready for playoffs,” Neal told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“I’ll be ready to go.”

Neal — one of just four 40-goal scorers in the NHL this season — will be a vital contributor for the Penguins this postseason. If there’s been a knock on Pittsburgh during the Sidney Crosby-Evgeni Malkin era, it’s the lack of elite scoring wingers to compliment the wealth of talent down the middle (don’t forget about Jordan Staal, either.)

Pens GM Ray Shero has worked wonders with short-term deals for the likes of Marian Hossa, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko to aid in Cup runs, but Neal is different because 1) He’s been with the team for nearly two full seasons, and 2) He’s signed on to play long-term, inking a six-year, $30 million deal in February.

Speaking of Pens wingers, it appears that Steve Sullivan is good to go after he too missed the final two games of the regular season with an undisclosed ailment. The 37-year-old has never advanced past the second round and is excited to get things underway with Pittsburgh.

“This is the best opportunity I’ve ever had, by far,” he said. “I’m very excited, energized and just ready to go. These opportunities don’t come along very often, so I want to try to make the best of my opportunity here.”