Posted November 12, 2011 on AP on Fox
James Neal is a major reason why the Pittsburgh Penguins are atop the Eastern Conference despite Sidney Crosby's absence. Visiting the struggling Carolina Hurricanes isn't likely to change that, either. Neal looks to continue his impressive start to the season and help the Penguins hand the Hurricanes a fifth straight loss Saturday night. Crosby is trying to return from a concussion that has sidelined him since Jan. 5, but he's already been ruled out until at least Tuesday when Pittsburgh (10-3-3) hosts Colorado. The Penguins are doing just fine without their superstar center, tying Chicago for the most points in the NHL. Neal, the team leader with 16 points, is picking up the scoring slack with 11 goals, one back of league-leader Phil Kessel of Toronto and half way to his total from last season. The left wing had 21 goals with Dallas before getting one with the Penguins following a three-player deal in February. He scored a pair of power-play goals in a 3-1 win over the Stars on Friday, helping the Penguins improve to 7-1-1 in their last nine. "Of course when you play your former team, you want to do well," Neal said. "Especially with them doing so well and coming in here being a top team. It was a test for us and a test for them, and it feels good to be able to come out on top." Neal has three goals in his last three meetings with the Hurricanes (5-8-3). Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, who has scored all four of his goals this season on the road, has 12 goals and 15 assists in 20 meetings with the Hurricanes, including six and three, respectively, in a sweep of the 2009 Eastern Conference finals. Pittsburgh took three of four from Carolina last season, with the teams splitting two meetings at RBC Center. The Hurricanes are mired in a 2-5-2 stretch, getting outscored 18-6 during a four-game losing streak. Carolina last dropped five consecutive games from Nov. 23-30, 2009, and the team showed few signs of being capable of avoiding that in Friday's 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers. The defensive struggles continued as Cam Ward surrendered four third-period goals, the first two coming nine seconds apart midway through the stanza. "It's 3-1, and we probably needed a timeout," coach Paul Maurice said. "I'm very disappointed with our effort. That was the turning point for sure." It's unclear if Maurice will stick with Ward in net since he's lost every game during the current skid behind a 5.02 goals-against average. However, he's 7-2-1 with a 2.07 GAA in 10 regular-season home matchups with Pittsburgh. If Ward is rested, Brian Boucher would get his first start since a 5-1 loss at Philadelphia on Oct. 29. He's 0-2-1 with a 4.14 GAA in four games - three starts. Jeff Skinner, the reigning Calder Trophy winner, has been held without a point for two games after collecting four in the previous three - all at home. The center's six goals and 14 points lead the Hurricanes, but he hasn't managed a point while failing to score on 15 shots in four games against the Penguins.

Pens coach: Crosby out next two games

It looks like Penguins fans will have to wait it out a bit longer to see Sidney Crosby's triumphant return to NHL action after Dan Bylsma confirmed the superstar is officially out for the team's next two games.

PUCKFATHER: What Do You Know, Sidney Crosby is Human After All

When you really think about it, boy have we been taking Sidney Crosby for granted. Come to think of it, just about everyone's been taking Sidney Crosby for granted.   For six years now, we've seen Crosby face the cameras at nearly every conceivable media opportunity. Off-day?  There's Sid.  Practice Day?  There's Sid.  Game-day...

Neal haunts former team, Pens cool Stars (AP)

James Neal scored two power-play goals against the team that traded him nine months ago and led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Friday night. Neal netted his 10th and 11th goals of the season to pull within one of the NHL lead, and Matt Cooke scored on a penalty shot in the third period as Pittsburgh won for the seventh time in nine games.

Neal, Pens stop Stars in tussle of division leaders

PITTSBURGH (AP) James Neal scored two power-play goals against the team that traded him nine months ago and led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Friday night.

Fluery improves, Neal scores twice in Penguins' win

In a meeting of the NHL's conference leaders, the Penguins got two goals from former Dallas winger James Neal in a 3-1 win over the Stars tonight at Consol Energy Center.

RECAP: Cool Hand James. PENS WIN

      Real different level right now for James Neal.  The pucks that weren't going in last year are all going in this year.  It probably doesn't hurt that he has pretty decent linemates.   In this game, it was another great example of the Penguins, eventually, grinding down their opponent with the new wrinkle of scoring huge power...

Pens still unsure when Crosby will be able to play

Sidney Crosby is feeling good these days. Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar isn't sure when he will return to the ice.

All signs point to Crosby’s return in the near future

By Robbie Naugle Three hundred and six days. It has been 306 days since we last saw Sidney Crosby play in an NHL hockey game. It’s hard to believe it has already been that long since he last stepped on the ice in a real game situation. It has been a long haul for the fans having to watch their team play without its biggest star. The fans are sitting on pins and needles as news...

Gameday 16 - Stars

Dallas Stars (11-3-0) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (9-3-3) 7:00 pm/et TV: ROOT, NHLN-US CONSOL Energy Center - Pittsburgh, PA Does anyone even remember what Pittsburgh Penguins hockey is like anymore?  The Dallas Stars are no joke this season. They lead the league with 22 points in 14 games. They're led by Jamie Benn who has five goals and 13 assists...

Sidney Crosby gets ton of contact in practice

Penguins center and captain Sidney Crosby has said he wanted more contact in practice for evaluation purposes,...

Slap Shot: Crosby May Return Soon

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins practiced Wednesday, leading to anticipation of his return to the team's lineup.

Crosby's return still on hold for Penguins

Sidney Crosby is feeling good these days. Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar isn't sure when he'll return to the ice.

Crosby won't return to Penguins this weekend

Sidney Crosby is feeling good these days. Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar isn't sure when he'll return to the ice.

Game Preview: Dallas Stars @ Pittsburgh Penguins

Dallas Stars (11-3-0, 22 pts) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (9-3-3, 21 pts) 6:00 PM CT, November 11, 2011 CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Let me go ahead and get this out of the way, Sidney Crosby won't be playing tonight. Now that tidbit is over so we can move on to the real news; the top two teams in the NHL find themselves on opposite ends of the ice tonight. The...
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