Pittsburgh Penguins forward James Neal was suspended five games Monday following a telephone hearing with the NHL's department of player safety.
Neal was given the ban for kneeing Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head during Saturday's game in Boston. Marchand was prone on the ice when Neal skated past, connecting with a knee to the head in the process.
Neal was given a minor penalty for kneeing during the game but NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said the contact appeared something other than accidental and gave him the maximum after a phone hearing.
"With a clear view of Marchand and plenty of time to avoid him, Neal skates directly through Marchand's head with his left knee," Shanahan said in a video explaining the suspension. "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."
Neal, not considered a repeat offender by the NHL, was last suspended during the 2012 playoffs, when he was given a one-game ban.
This suspension will cost him just over $128,000.
DATSYUK SET TO RETURN
Pavel Datsyuk will return to the Detroit Red Wings lineup Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.
Datsyuk missed seven games after suffering a head injury against Ottawa Nov. 23 but the Red Wings went 5-2-0 during that time. Still, the Wings are happy to have Datsyuk back in action.
"We're glad to have him back, he's a good player," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. "Any time you miss good players, it's harder."
The return of Datsyuk against Florida will help ease the sting of losing Henrik Zetterberg for the game. Zetterberg, who is having back pain, won't make the trip to Florida.
ORPIK GOES ON IR
The Pittsburgh Penguins put defenceman Brooks Orpik on injured reserve Monday, two days after he was attacked on the ice by Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton.
Orpik has a concussion, according to the Pens, but they gave no indication of how long they expect him to be out of action. Defenceman Brian Dumoulin was called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL to take his spot on the roster.
Orpik was hurt Saturday against the Bruins after he was jumped by Thornton. He was taken on a stretcher to Massachusetts General Hospital but travelled back to Pittsburgh with the team.
In 31 games this season, Orpik has one goal and six assists.
ISLES WAIVE BOUCHARD
The New York Islanders are cutting ties with forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard, according to Newsday.
The Isles have reportedly put Bouchard on waivers in the hopes of clearing a spot for former first-round draft pick Ryan Strome, who has been tearing it up with Bridgeport of the AHL.Strome, picked fifth overall in 2011, has nine goals and 24 assists in 23 games to lead the AHL in scoring and was named the league's player of the week on Monday.
The oft-injured Bouchard signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Islanders as a free agent last summer. He has four goals and five assists in 28 games but is minus-nine and has seen his ice-time slide.
Forward Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes, forward Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo were named the NHL's three stars of the week Monday. Skinner, the first star, had five goals and one assist to help the Hurricanes win three times last week ... Philadelphia Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier, who is expected to be out 3-4 weeks, was put on IR with a non-displaced fracture on his lower back. The Flyers called up Tye McGinn from Adirondack of the AHL to take his place in the lineup ... The Chicago Blackhawks put forward Bryan Bickell on IR with a lower-body injury, retroactive to Nov. 19, and called up goalie Kent Simpson from Rockford of the AHL. Bickell, last year's playoff hero, has five goals and one assist in 22 games this season ... Boston Bruins defenceman Dougie Hamilton will miss a week of action due to a lower-body injury, according to coach Claude Julien. Hamilton was hurt Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs ... The NHL announced Monday that the public allotment of tickets for the Stadium Series game between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium have sold out. Tickets for the game can still be bought through the Devils, though.