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James Neal suspended five games for kneeing Brad Marchand in head

By Brian Stubits | Hockey writer

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Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal has been suspended five games by the NHL for his knee to the head of Bruins forward Brad Marchand on Saturday night.

The game between the East powers was beyond chippy from the start. Included in all of the feistiness was the knee that Neal delivered to Marchand's head. Marchand was down on the ice and as Neal went by he instead elected to go through Marchand. It looked awful but fortunately Marchand appeared to escape major injury.

Maybe that's why Neal didn't receive an in-person hearing. Instead he had a hearing over the phone and got the maximum suspension he could in that scenario; five games. Most will feel it's actually too light of a punishment for Neal and you'll see no disagreement here. The play could have had a much worse result and was completely unnecessary. Neal should feel fortunate it's just five games.

After the game, Neal didn't make the strongest case for himself either.

"I was skating by him," Neal said, noting he had not seen a replay of his hit, which resulted in a minor penalty for kneeing. "I hit him in the head with my leg or my foot or my knee or my shin area; I don't know. He went down. I guess I need to try and avoid him.

"I need to be more careful and get my knee out of the way. I'm not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that."

This is actually the third suspension for Neal. He was suspended one game in 2012 during the playoffs against Philadelphia and also took a two-game suspension back in 2009. That didn't help his cause here.

Next up will be the hearing for Bruins forward Shawn Thornton for his attack on Brooks Orpik. That suspension could make Neal's look like a slap on the wrist.

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