The crowd is going nuts. The red light and the sirens go off in the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Then on the jumbotron, you hear two dings of a bell and a man comes on the screen and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Real Deal James Neal!”
Since being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Dallas Stars, Neal has flourished in the Penguins’ system. Many people believed that the purpose of him being traded to the Penguins was to play with superstar center Sidney Crosby. However, Crosby was out with a concussion, and that left Neal to be put on a line with the Pens’ other scoring center, Evgeni Malkin.
In hindsight, this may have been the best thing that could have happened to Neal, Malkin and the Penguins.
Neal got off to a slow start this season for the Penguins. This was not his fault, because he was out for the beginning of the season with a lower body injury. His injury had a great effect on Malkin’s play. While Neal was out, Malkin could not get it going at all. He was not scoring goals and was barely putting up points.
Since Neal’s return, the man the Pens fans call “Geno” has been racking up the points that they are accustomed to seeing from him. Malkin has tallied 14 points over the past 10 games, and has had five multi-point games since Neal’s return. Before Neal was playing with him this season, Malkin only had 13 points total and only three multi-point games in 15 contests.
Neal has been doing pretty well for himself on the stat sheet since his return, tallying 12 points in 10 games played. In his last two games against the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, Neal scored two goals in each game and has looked unstoppable. He is scoring on the rush, in front of the net, as well as on tic-tac-toe plays.
In the Penguins’ next game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Neal will be looking to add to his hot streak as of late. Neal has proved in the past that he is a vital part of this Penguins team. Not only does he know how to put the puck in the net, but he has that chemistry with Malkin that no one else on the team seems to have. The Penguins will need him to be the “Real Deal” against a very tough Maple Leafs team on Wednesday night.