Neal suspended five games for kneeing Marchand in the head

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The NHL has suspended Pittsburgh forward James Neal five games — the maximum allowable after his telephone hearing with the Department of Player Safety — for kneeing Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head on Saturday night.

Neal, 26, clipped a fallen Marchand with his knee during a wild first period of play. The Pens winger was given a minor penalty on the play and, adding insult to injury, jumped out of the box to score just seven seconds after his penalty expired.

“With a clear view of Marchand and plenty of time to avoid him, Neal skates directly through Marchand’s head with his left knee,” explained NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan. “It is our belief after viewing this incident that this is more serious than simply not avoiding contact with a fallen player.

“While looking down directly at Marchand, Neal turns his skates and extends his left leg, ensuring that contact is made with Marchand’s head.”

Here’s the video:

Neal isn’t a repeat offender under the terms of the CBA, but he does have a disciplinary history. He was suspended one game during the opening round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs and, in 2009, was suspended for two games (while a member of the Dallas Stars) for boarding then-Columbus forward Derek Dorsett.

Neal will miss tonight’s game vs. Columbus and be out for the following four games (New Jersey, Detroit, Toronto and the New York Rangers.) He’ll be eligible to return on Thursday, Dec. 19, when the Penguins host the Wild at Consol. He’ll also forfeit $128,205.15 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.