May 1, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing James Neal (18) jumps over New York Islanders center Marty Reasoner (16) (bottom) while chasing the puck during the first period in game one of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

James Neal Claiming His Spot On The Power Play


Switching in-and-out with Jarome Iginla on the first-team power play, James Neal looks like he’s now solidifying his spot and reclaiming the slot that use to permanently be his.

Leading the team with five goals in the last round – two on the power play (which also was tops) – Neal is getting hot.

For a while the team was undecided on who to put in the final slot for the first power play unit.  But after Neal potted some timely yet electrifying goals in round two, it’s a no-brainer that Bylsma is starting him on the man advantage.

After a very languid first round – scoring just one goal – Neal has found that shot he’s so famous for.

The man who led the league in power play tallies a year ago might finally be getting his goal-scoring touch back just in time for the upcoming series with Boston.

And although Iginla will probably still see time on the power play – most of that time might be on the second power play unit.

Skating with the second power play group in practice Friday, Iginla just isn’t as hot as Neal right now and that’s what it ultimately comes down to.

It’s not like Iginla has played poorly – it’s just that Neal has played phenomenal.

But when the team is deciding between Iginla or Neal for their first team power play, I think that is a problem a lot of other teams would love to have.

Seeing as the Pens have had plenty of time off, there’s still a question as to whether or not Neal will continue his power surge. And knowing how streaky Neal has been this season, we’ll just have to wait and see Saturday.

For now it looks as though Neal is going to be joining Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin on the first team power play – so look out for number-18 tomorrow.

Game 1 between the Pens and Bruins is Saturday in Pittsburgh at 8 p.m.

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