In Friday's game against the Rangers in Pittsburgh, Neal collided with Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto that resulted in Del Zotto's elbow catching Neal square in the face. Del Zotto had his back to Neal but seemed to be aware Neal was behind him and threw his arms back. Still, the result was unfortunate.
Intentional or not, Neal was shaken up. The Pens made it official on Monday -- Neal had suffered a concussion.
Neal has a concussion and will miss the 3-game road trip, per coach Bylsma #Pens— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 8, 2013
Neal joins a growing list of injured Penguins. Right now they are also down Kris Letang and Paul Martin on the defensive side of things as well as this guy named Sidney Crosby. With Neal being injured, that's a lot of firepower missing for the Penguins. However, Letang has returned to practice and said he's feeling good.
The good news is that the Penguins are already in the playoffs, so they can sort of coast to the line and try to get healthy before the playoffs. Given the situation in the standings right now, Pittsburgh is all but a lock for one of the top two seeds in the East.
Still, you never like to hear about concussions, especially in Pittsburgh, where Crosby has dealt with concussion problems over the years. But you never can tell how severely a player will be affected by a concussion. Crosby missed a long time. Other times, it's like Evgeni Malkin, who was concussed earlier this season but only missed a few games.
Neal has been very successful since coming to Pittsburgh from Dallas in a trade two years ago. Last season, his first full one with the Penguins, Neal broke out with 40 goals and 41 assists playing mostly with Malkin. This season Neal is third on the team in points behind Crosby and Chris Kunitz, and his 18 goals are tied for second most on the team behind only Kunitz's 20.
Now you can see precisely why the Penguins were active in trade talks getting some more depth at the forward positions. Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen and Brenden Morrow will be counted on to help the Penguins get through until they're healthy.
On a positive note, Crosby was back with the team on Monday and spoke to the media. He said he's been able to eat/drink shakes since he had his jaw broken by a slap shot, but it's been hard keeping his weight up.