Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal was suspended for five games Monday by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
The suspension stems from an incident that occurred Saturday, December 7 in a game against the Boston Bruins. In the first period, Neal struck Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head with his knee, while Marchand was down on the ice.
Marchand had been tripped up by Penguins forward Sidney Crosby while battling for a loose puck just inside the Bruins defensive blue line. After turning back towards center ice, Neal skated towards, and did not attempt to avoid, the fallen Marchand. In fact, replay shows that Neal purposefully changed his path and stuck his knee out to make certain contact would be made with Marchand’s head.
Neal received a two-minute minor for kneeing on the play.
This is the third suspension of Neal’s career. He had previously received a one-game suspension for hits to the head on Philadelphia Flyers forwards Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux during the 2012 NHL playoffs, and in 2009 received a two-game suspension for boarding Derek Dorsett.
He will be eligible to return to Penguins lineup on December 19 when they will face the Minnesota Wild.