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James Neal respects NHL’s decision to suspend him

12.10.13 at 2:59 pm ET
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James Neal was suspended five games. (AP)

James Neal was suspended five games. (AP)

Penguins forward James Neal said following Tuesday’s practice that he understands why the NHL suspended him five games for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head Saturday.

“Obviously, it’s not the smartest decision I’ve ever made,” Neal said. “I’m glad he’s OK. Going forward here, I need to learn from it. It’s something I can’t do, and I know that. I respect what the NHL’s done, but I’ve got to put it behind me and move forward here.”

Marchand was down on the ice after being tripped by Sidney Crosby, at which point Neal skated by, stuck out his left leg and hit Marchand in the head. The suspension is the third of Neal’s career.

It was at that whistle that the scrum between Brooks Orpik and Gregory Campbell, among others, took place and Shawn Thornton attacked Orpik with a slewfoot and two punches to the head. Orpik is out indefinitely with a concussion and has memory loss. Thornton’s in-person hearing with the league over the play is scheduled for Friday.

After the game, Neal had initially offered little about the play in which he hit Marchand, saying he hadn’t seen the replay. Marchand stayed in the game.

“I mean, what do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him? No, I’€™m going by him, I don’€™t get out of the way like I said,” Neal said following the game. “I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I’€™m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that.”

Read More: Brad Marchand, James Neal,
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