The Pittsburgh Penguins: It’s Not Over Yet!

Kim Garafola

With the season just over half way finished, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a record of 28 wins, 17 losses and 4 overtime losses.  With this record, the Penguins trail only 4 other teams in the Easter Conference, one of which is the team’s rival, the Philadelphia Flyers.  The team currently has 60 points.  Sidney Crosby has been out of play since December due to the return of concussion-like symptoms.  He will return when he feels he is able.

Along with Crosby’s returning injury, the team has suffered losses.  Kris Letang recently returned to the ice after suffering from a concussion, which has greatly helped the team.  Jordan Staal has been out with a knee injury and Aaron Asham also with concussion-like symptoms.  Many players have been pulled up from and floated between the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins team and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Although the team has had some unfortunate injuries, three players were sent to the All Star Game in Ottawa, Canada on Sunday January 29th.  The players included Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and James Neal.

James Neal

James Neal was born in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada on September 3, 1987.  He was selected by the Dallas Stars thirty-third overall in the 2005 draft.  Neal played with the team’s American Hockey League (the league below the NHL), the Iowa Stars, for one season before he made his rookie appearance in the 2008-2009 season.  In 2010, Neal was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins

Like most hockey players, Neal grew up playing, and was coached in majority by his father.  In 2003, he began to play in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), a junior league for players between the ages of 15 and 20.  After joining the Dallas Stars in 2005 and competing in training camp, Neal was sent back down to the junior league.  During this season, Neal scored 27 goals and had 65 points in only 45 games.  He represented the Western Conference in the OHL All Star Game, and helped Plymouth win the OHL title.   Neal was also able to lead all tournament scorers with a total of five goals in the Memorial Cup.

When Neal rejoined the Dallas Stars, he scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Later that season, he would score his first hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  This season proved successful for Neal as he broke the Star’s record for goals scored by a rookie with 24 goals and 37 points.  Neal would go on to be traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in February 2011, and score his first playoff goal in April against the Tampa Bay Lightning in double overtime to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead in the series.

So far this season, Neal has 27 goals, 20 assists and 47 points.  He has proved to be an important asset to the team, and was sent to play in the NHL All Star game on January 29, 2012.  Although Neal was unable to score with his deadly shot, he again proved that he deserved to be there.  The game ended with a high score of Team Chara 12 and Team Alfredsson 9.

Marc-André Fleury, also known as “Flower,” was born on November 28, 1984 in Sorel, Quebec, Canada.  Fleury is currently the goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins making his appearance in the 2003 season as the youngest goaltender in the league.  He was chosen first overall in the 2003 NHL Draft, only the third goaltender to have be chosen this early.

"Flower"

Fleury’s rookie season started off strong earning him Rookie of the Month honors in October 2003.  But his performance slowly deteriorated.  During this season, he played in the 2004 World Juniors Championship winning a silver medal.  He then returned to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) to finish out the season.  He was assigned to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and made an appearance in two post-season games.

In the 2005-2006 season, Fleury was called up from the AHL team and by the end of the season was permanently made the starting goalie of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  In the 2008-2009 season, Fleury was an integral part of helping the team to playoffs and to playoff wins.  With a diving stop with 1.5 seconds left in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Fleury ensured the championship for the team against the Detroit Red Wings.  Since then, he has continued to demonstrate his value to the team.

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