The first of the suspensions from Saturday night’s nasty battle between the Bruins and Penguins has come down from the NHL, and Pittsburgh winger James Neal was suspended five games for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head. The B’s agitator had been tripped by Sidney Crosby in the first period of the B’s 3-2 win over the Penguins, and Neal took that opportunity to extend a knee directly into Marchand’s head as he skated by the forward.
Neal was called for a minor kneeing penalty on the play, and then subsequently scored a goal for the Penguins immediately after exiting the penalty box having served his two minutes. Neal had a phone hearing with Shanahan on Monday, and the decision came down quickly from the Department of Player Safety.
In the videos that go along with the rulings, Shanahan made note that -- while not technically a “repeat offender” in the eyes of the CBA -- Neal has been fined and suspended twice before in his career and that Marchand never suffered an injury as a result of the dangerous play.
“While looking down directly at Marchand, Neal turns his skates and extends his left leg ensuring that contract his made with his head,” said NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan. “With a clear view of Marchand and plenty of time to avoid him, Neal skates directly through Marchand’s head with his left leg.”
Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton also faces an in-person hearing with Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety that hasn’t yet been scheduled, and won’t take place until Wednesday at the earliest with Shanahan on the West Coast to make a presentation to the NHL’s Board of Governors over the next few days.
It’s likely the decision won’t come immediately after the hearing as Shanahan weighs all of the evidence. Games missed by Thornton in the meantime will count as time served on his impending suspension.