Neal joins Oilers following quarantine, likely won't be ready for opener
Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal skated with the club for the first time Saturday but likely won't be available to start the season.
Neal, 33, quarantined for 14 days after being deemed unfit to play. The Oilers begin their season against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.
"It's 14 days. It's a long time," Neal said, according to NHL.com's Tim Campbell. "You just have to go by the rules and be safe here. It's frustrating but you have to keep your team safe and yourself."
The winger enjoyed a bounce-back campaign in 2019-20, his first with the Oilers. He ranked fourth on the club with 19 goals and added 12 assists in 55 contests.
Neal got off to a torrid start with 11 goals in 14 games last October, but head coach Dave Tippett doesn't anticipate the veteran being available to provide the Oilers with the same early season boost this year.
"He basically was off the ice for almost a month so it's going to take him some time to get up and going here," Tippett said. "But he's got a great attitude. He jumps in there and he's been working hard. But he's got a ways to go yet."
Neal was on pace last season to hit the 20-goal mark over 82 games for the 11th time in his 12-year career.