While the Pittsburgh Penguins have suffered for offense in their first five games – they’ve scored 19 goals for an average of 3.75 per contest – their forward depth has already been tested due to injuries.
With apologies to Beau Bennett, who will miss Tuesday’s game against Edmonton with a lower-body ailment, all-pro winger James Neal has been the biggest missing piece for Pittsburgh. The former 50-goal scorer and regular wingman for star center Evgeni Malkin has missed all but a few minutes of the regular season with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
Unlike wounded defenseman Kris Letang, who has been participating in practices on a limited basis recently, Neal has been rehabbing mostly off the ice. On Tuesday morning, the Penguins announced they had placed Neal on the injured reserve, opening up a roster spot for AHLer Harry Zolnierczyk to occupy.
It’s difficult to infer much from Neal’s move from the active roster to the IR, since Bennett’s absence likely dictated Zolnierczyk’s call-up more than anything else. The Penguins didn’t disclose anything about the nature of Neal’s IR stint, although it could be retroactive to the first game he missed, which was 10 days ago vs. Buffalo.
Pens coach Dan Byslma told the media Zolnierczyk will likely be inserted on his team’s third line, thus keeping the fourth line of Craig Adams, Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale intact. Zolnierczyk, a 26-year-old who has seven points (3g, 4a) in 44 career NHL games, will probably skate with Brandon Sutter and Dustin Jeffrey, while Chuck Kobasew takes Bennett’s spot alongside Malkin and Jussi Jokinen.
The Penguins (4-1-0, 8 points) and the Oilers (1-4-1, 3 points) face off at 7:05 p.m. from Consol Energy Center. Edmonton dropped a 4-2 decision in Washington on Monday night; Pittsburgh capped a two-game Florida swing with a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday.