PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Pittsburgh Penguins have to wait another day before their reinforcements arrive.
Forward James Neal and defenceman Matt Niskanen missed practice Tuesday, a day after being acquired in a trade with Dallas. The two were initially set to arrive late Monday, but their flight was diverted to New Jersey because of a snowstorm that hit Pittsburgh.
Coach Dan Bylsma said the two are to arrive later in the day when they’ll take their physicals and meet with the coaching staff. Both will practise Wednesday morning before making their debuts later in the day against San Jose.
Bylsma joked that he hoped Neal and Niskanen didn’t think they had been traded to the Devils after arriving in Newark. The two were acquired in exchange for defenceman Alex Goligoski.
They join a Penguins team that’s down 10 regulars, including Sidney Crosby, who has missed 20 games and is out indefinitely with a concussion.
With 21 goals, Neal will immediately become the Penguins second-leading scorer, behind Crosby, who has 32.
Bylsma said Neal will play on the left side on the team’s top line with centre Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.
The Penguins are 2-5-1 in their past eight and coming off a 1-0 loss to the Washington Capitals. Pittsburgh remains in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, but only a point ahead of the Capitals.
Offence has become a problem for Pittsburgh, which has gone 14 games without scoring four or more goals in regulation while being shut out three times over that span.
The Penguins lacked finish against the Capitals in a game they managed 39 shots.
“I think he’s going to make us a better team going into tomorrow night’s game and give us a chance to get what we need to get wins,” Bylsma said, referring to Neal. “With Jordan, I can see them being a real formidable pair.”
Updating his long list of injuries, Bylsma said defenceman Paul Martin will miss his second game with an upper body injury. Martin was hurt when he was hit from behind into the boards in a 3-2 shootout loss at Chicago on Sunday.
Forward Chris Kunitz, who has missed seven games with a lower body injury, has still not been cleared for practice.
Bylsma said forwards Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey—both listed as having lower body injuries—have been cleared for practice, and could resume playing in a few days.
The Penguins complete their two-game homestand against San Jose, before opening a five-game road trip at Carolina on Friday.