In a move that should have been a no-brainer from the beginning, Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal was deservedly added to the NHL All-Star Game roster today as a replacement for Alexander Ovechkin, who decided yesterday that skip this year’s All-Star Game festivities because of his suspension.
Neal will join teammates Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang as representatives for the Pittsburgh Penguins at the festivities this weekend in Ottawa, which kick off this Thursday at 8 p.m. with the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft and continues Saturday night with the Skills Competitionand the All-Star Game on Sunday afternoon.
This will be the first All-Star appearance for the 24-year-old Neal, who was traded from Dallas to Pittsburgh last season. However, this will be Neal’s second appearance at the NHL All-Star Weekend as he played in the YoungStars Game in 2009 in Montreal.
Neal should have been on the roster from the get-go thanks to a season that will certainly end with personal bests in nearly every stat category. With 27 goals on the season, Neal has already tied his personal best in goals and will likely surpass his personal best in assists and total points within the next month. He currently ranks second on the Penguins in points, behind only Evgeni Malkin, and ranks 13th in the league in points with 47 and third in the league in goals.
It will be interesting to see if All-Star captains Daniel Alfredsson or Zdeno Chara attempt to draft both Malkin and Neal in order to give their team a competitive advantage by having two players on a line together who already have chemistry.