According to Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, James Neal suffered a concussion on Friday and will not travel with the Penguins on their three game road-trip this week.
Neal suffered the injury when he took a hard elbow to the head from New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. (Watch it HERE) Neal went to the ice and was clearly dazed and you can even see him say something like “where am I?” to the Penguins trainer.
This injury comes just three games after Pittsburgh lost their captain Sidney Crosby to a broken jaw. The Penguins made some significant additions to their roster prior to the trade deadline, but losing players like Neal and Crosby is going to leave a big hole in the lineup. They have shuffled their top-6 in Neal’s absence. Brenden Morrow will move into the top-6 and will play with Jussi Jokinen and Pascal Dupuis on the second line. Chris Kunitz will move back to the first line and play with Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla.
Not only is this a tough break for the Penguins but for Neal’s fantasy owners as well. With the fantasy playoffs looming, losing a player of his caliber could be debilitating to a fantasy roster. Neal had 40 goals and 41 assists last season which rocketed him up the fantasy draft charts. He has played very well again this season posting 18 goals which ranks eighth in the NHL and 14 assists which gives him 32 points in 39 games. What is most impressive about Neal’s fantasy season thus far is his five game-winning goals which ties him for third.
There is no word on if Neal will return after the three game road trip but for this week here are some LW-RW options that should help you, for this week at least.
- Steve Ott (BUF – 74.2%) is seeing time on the Sabres top-line with Thomas Vanek out. He has made the most of his playing time, recording a goal in each of his last three games. He is not a great scorer but on a weak Buffalo team, he plays 20-plus minutes on most nights, including time on their top power-play unit.
- Mikkel Boedker (PHX – 31.5%) the former eighth overall pick seems like he has been around forever. Truth is he is only 23-years-old and has room to develop still. He was rushed into the NHL when the Coyotes were terrible and it hurt his game. However he has posted one goal, four assists and a plus-5 in his last five games.
- Jussi Jokinen (PIT – 3.5% owned) is in the Penguins top-6 and sees time on their second power-play unit. He has one goal in two games with Pittsburgh. He is not a great option but if you are in a deep-league, he might be your best option.
- Alex Chiasson (DAL – 2.0%) is another player making the most of increased ice-time. He has three goals in his last two games since being re-called after the Stars traded Jaromir Jagr.He is playing on the Stars top-line with Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney… That’s quite the opportunity for the 22-year-old. He banked 35 points in 57 games in the AHL this season.
- Josh Bailey (NYI – 0.6%) was taken the pick after Boedker in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He has never scored more than 35 points in the NHL after posting 96 for the Windsor Spitfires in his last year in the OHL. However you are looking for a temporary fix and he has two goals, three assists and a plus-5 rating in his last four games.