James Neal Admits Kneeing Brad Marchand Was ‘Not the Smartest Decision I Ever Made’

James Neal, Sidney CrosbyJames Neal isn’t necessarily sorry, but he also knows he has to change his game. Or at least that’s what the Pittsburgh Penguins forward said Tuesday.

Neal was suspended for five games Monday after he kneed Bruins forward Brad Marchand on Saturday night. The Pittsburgh winger received a two-minute penalty for kneeing and learned his fate Monday when the league announced the two-game ban.

It’s not the first time the league has told Neal to take a seat. He was suspended in 2012 for a hit on Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux, and Neal has also been fined for crossing the line before. He’s now vowing that he’ll change his game moving forward with the hopes of doing a better job of playing by the rules.

“It’s not the smartest decision I ever made, looking back at it,” he said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m glad [Marchand's] OK, but going forward, I need to learn from it.

“It’s something I can’t do, and I know that. I have to respect what the NHL has done and put it behind me and move forward.”

Of course, that’s a far cry from what Neal was saying following Saturday’s game.

“I mean, what do you want me to say?” Neal quipped Saturday night when speaking to reporters. “That I was trying to hit him? No I’m going by him, I don’t get out of the way like I said. 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.”

One would imagine that the Penguins probably got in Neal’s ear and try to get him to say the right thing, albeit far after the fact. It would probably also benefit Neal to get his act together. He was a 40-goal scorer in 2011-12 and already has 10 goals and 10 assists in 16 games this season.

“I have to be smarter and control my emotions a lot better.”

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