James Neal tried to play in the Penguins' season opener, but left the game during the first period and did not return. Head coach Dan Bylsma said Neal was going to be evaluated week-to-week and had no timetable for the wingers return. How Neal was injured was less clear, though.
David Todd, a radio host for Pittsburgh's ESPN 970 reported Tuesday that Neal's injury is “similar to a strained oblique” and was suffered during the team's on-ice wiffle ball game last week.
Was told by source #Penguins James Neal's injury is something similar to strained oblique. Suffered it when Pens played whiffle ball on ice.— David Todd (@DavidMTodd) October 8, 2013
Sean Gentille of Sporting News heard the same.
Just heard from someone else that Neal indeed hurt himself playing wiffle ball.— Sean Gentille (@seangentille) October 8, 2013
If it sounds crazy, perhaps it is. GM Ray Shero told Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that it is "Not accurate, 100 percent not true."
The Penguins were playing wiffle ball as part of a tribute to the Pittsburgh Pirates for making it into the postseason. It appeared that most, if not all of the Penguins were participating in the spirited game that was documented by the team's video portal.
After Neal left the season opener last Thursday, Bylsma told reporters that Neal's injury was an “aggravation” of the same issue that kept him out of last Wednesday's practice and the team's morning skate that day.
Neal is obviously a big part of the Penguins' lineup. Since joining Pittsburgh in the middle of the 2010-11 season, Neal has scored 62 goals, including a 40-goal campaign in 2011-12 and 21 during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
If Neal had in fact get hurt in this fashion, it's a pretty embarrassing situation for the organization. Sometimes a little fun can hurt, I guess.