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Penguins F Neal suspended five games

The SportsXchange

The NHL suspended Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal five games for kneeing Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head during Saturday night's game.

The five-game ban is the maximum allowable following Neal's telephone hearing with the league's Department of Player Safety.

Neal, 26, clipped Marchand with his knee after Marchand fell to the ice during the first period of the game. Neal was assessed a minor penalty on the play. He then scored a goal 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," league discipline czar Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. "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."

Under terms of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, Neal is considered a first-time offender. However, he was suspended one game during 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs and two games in 2009.

Neal's suspension starts Monday night as the Penguins take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. He will also miss games against the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers. He is eligible to return Dec. 19 when the Penguins host the Minnesota Wild. He also forfeits $128,205.15 in salary to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
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