Welcome back: Martin returns to Pens lineup, Neal ‘ready to go’

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are returning to health.

On Monday, club appeared primed to make two significant strides towards a full lineup, as defenseman Paul Martin — who’s been out since November — and forward James Neal sounded as though they’d make their returns against Florida.

Here’s the situation on Martin, from NHL.com:

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said three injured Penguins will return against Florida but did not specify which three. He said the returning players will give the Penguins eight healthy defensemen, indicating Martin, who has missed 23 games with a broken tibia, will return.

Although Martin was paired with Brooks Orpik at the morning skate, Bylsma said Martin will be eased into the lineup.

As for Neal, he declared himself “ready to go” after sitting out last Wednesday’s 4-3 win over Washington. Even though he only missed one game, Neal actually hasn’t played in nine days as the Pens are in the midst of one of the lightest parts of their schedule (Neal last played on Jan. 11 versus Calgary.)

Neal skated alongside usual linemates Evgeni Malkin and Jussi Jokinen this morning. Fellow forwards Jayson Megna and Chuck Kobasew also took the morning skate after missing time with lower-body injuries (six games missed for Kobasew, 13 for Megna.)

Should all these players return tonight, it’ll leave Pittsburgh with just seven players out to injury: Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Chris Conner, Andrew Ebbett, Brian Gibbons, Joe Vitale and Tomas Vokoun.

Related: Pens’ Dupuis to have ACL surgery Feb. 12