James Neal leads the Pittsburgh Penguins with 27 goals, putting him second in the National Hockey League (tied with Jonathan Toews) behind Steven Stamkos. But until Wednesday morning, James Neal was not an NHL All-Star.
For all the controversy Alex Ovechkin caused by pulling out of the midseason classic, it had a positive consequence: Neal taking his roster spot and joining teammates Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in Ottawa this week.
The National Hockey League announced this morning that Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal has been added to the roster for the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, which will be played this coming Sunday, Jan. 29, at 4 p.m. at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. Neal joins teammates Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to give the Penguins three representatives in Ottawa.
Neal, 24, will be making his All-Star Game debut on Sunday. This will be his second time participating in All-Star Weekend, as he appeared in the 2009 YoungStars Game in Montreal.
According to the Post-Gazette, Neal was nearly the replacement for Toews, but the Philadelphia Flyers' Scott Hartnell — well deserving — was chosen instead based on seniority. Somewhere, Patrik Elias and Kris Versteeg raise their glasses as two of the last residents of snub-ville.
In other NHL All-Star Game news, the League confirmed an Alftonbladet report that New Jersey Devils defenseman Adam Larsson is out of the rookie all-star class. The paper reported it's due to a wrist injury. Defenseman Raphael Diaz of the Montreal Canadiens will take his slot in the skills competition.
Also, Carl Hagelin of the New York Rangers has been added to the rookie pool as well. The NHL is expected to announce this afternoon which player he's replacing. In what we're sure is a completely unrelated story, the Devils' rookie All-Star Adam Henrique has been battling a sore groin.