Penguins winger James Neal was suspended for five games without pay by the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety for kneeing Boston’s forward Brad Marchand last Saturday night.
“I respect the NHL’s decision,” Neal said. “On my part it wasn’t the smartest decision I’ve ever made looking back on it. I’m sorry and I’m glad (Marchand is) OK. Going forward I need to learn from it. It’s something I can’t do. I know that. I respect what the NHL’s done. I have to put it behind me and move forward.”
Neal, 26, spoke with regret to the Pittsburgh media following Tuesday afternoon’s practice at CONSOL Energy Center.
“Yeah (I’m sorry for it). I hurt my team. I hurt myself,” he said. “It’s not something I want to be talked about for. It’s disappointing.”
Neal served the first game of his suspension Monday night when the Penguins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-1. He is eligible to return to the lineup Dec. 19 vs. Minnesota.
Moving forward Neal, who is serving his third career suspension, said he wants to be in better control of his emotions so that he doesn’t miss games in the future.
“You let your emotions get the best of you. It’s something I need to be better with,” he said. “The way things have been going and the team has been playing it’s tough to do something like that and not be able to play and help my team win.”
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma spoke with Neal about the incident and wants Neal to learn from the situation.
“I talked to James at length (Tuesday) about the situation, about how he plays the game, previous incidences he’s been involved in,” Bylsma said. “There needs to be some education, some learning in how he needs to play the game and how he can play the game.
“He’s a 40-goal scorer and has to able to play, and play that way without crossing that line.”
On the play, Marchand fell to the ice. When Neal skated past Marchand his knee hit Marchand in the head. Marchand was able to stay in the game.
“When I’m coming back I bumped into him. I have no intent to hurt or injure him,” Neal said. “It’s obviously tough to say that when you look at the play and see my knee hit his head. There’s really no excuse for it. I can’t do it. I have to be better from it.”