Pittsburgh Penguins lose James Neal for 5 games

Evgeni returned to the ice Monday, Dec. 9, after missing two games for Pittsburgh.

Evgeni returned to the ice Monday, Dec. 9, after missing two games for Pittsburgh.

The NHL Department of Player Safety announced today that Pittsburgh winger James Neal would be suspended for five games without pay for kneeing the head of Boston Bruin Brad Marchand during Saturday, Dec. 7, game against the Bruins.

I will say that it is inexcusable for Neal to not attempt to get out of the way of Marchand who was laying on the ice after being tripped by center Sidney Crosby.  A full explanation of the suspension can be found here: http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=60&id=506355&lang=en

The video is worth a look to decide for yourself what you think. After seeing the video in slow motion, I do believe that it was on purpose that Neal did the kneeing.  The NHL has been trying to crack down on dirty play like that and unfortunately this is another set back for Pittsburgh.

Immediately after, Bruin left wing Shawn Thornton pulled down Pittsburgh’s defender Brooks Orpik and began to punch Orpik while he was defenseless and laying on the ice.  That led to Orpik to be carted off the ice and sent to the hospital.  What caused this action was due to Orpik delivering a big hit on Boston’s Loui Eriksson, who suffered a concussion, in the game’s opening minute. Thornton challenged Orpik to a fight a few minutes later, but Orpik declined. Thornton received a two-minute penalty for roughing in that sequence.

Orpik was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was alert and conscious. He rejoined the team and traveled back to Pittsburgh following the game.

Monday, it was announced that Orpik would be placed on IR

““I’ve seen Brooks (Sunday) and (Monday). He’s doing quite well,” Head Coach Dan Bylsma said. “We saw him leave the ice. It was pretty scary in a lot of regards. He’s up and moving around just fine. When a guy is unconscious for maybe 30 seconds or longer you have a concussion. I don’t have any other kind of symptoms that he’s having at this time.”

Both of those actions are inexcusable.  The NHL Department of Player Safety has not announced yet today what the punishment for Thornton will be.  Thornton was offered the opportunity for an in-person hearing as required by provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for any suspension that can exceed five games.  I would assume it would be 10 games for Thornton but it could be more.

James Neal will return Dec. 19 when Pittsburgh will face the Minnesota Wild in Pittsburgh. Neal will miss big games against Detroit and New York Rangers.

After being up 2-1 in the first period against Boston, Pittsburgh allowed 2 goals to Boston score two goals in the final 1:29 in the game.

Tonight, Pittsburgh is home to the Columbus Bluejackets. Marc-Andre Fleury is back in the net for Pittsburgh.

Pens recalled defeseman Brian Dumoulin on Monday, Dec. 9.

Pens recalled defeseman Brian Dumoulin on Monday, Dec. 9.

During Monday morning’s skate, Jussi Jokinen and Jayson Megna were playing on the second line with Evgeni Malkin.  We would suspect that Malkin might make a return tonight to the line up.

Now with Orpik out, the defense is getting thinner for Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh is now down three of their top 4 defensemen (Orpik, Scuderi and Martin). Olli Maataa and Kris Letang were skating on the first line this morning.  Matt Niskanen and Deryl Engelland were on the second line. Robert Bortuzzo,  Simon Despres, and Brian Dumoulin were sharing time on the third line.

Brian Dumoulin was recalled Monday from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (AHL).

Dumoulin, 22, has notched six points (1G-5A) in 22 regular-season games with WBS this year. He appeared in one preseason game for Pittsburgh, collecting one assist and finishing plus-1. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Dumoulin enjoyed a solid rookie campaign with WBS last season, leading all team blueliners during the regular season in games played (73) and assists (18) and placing second in goals (6) and points (24).

Pittsburgh will have to rely on their young defensemen for now.  The question is could it be time to trade for a potential defensemen to help in the place of Orpik or should Pittsburgh take this time to develop their young players? I think you take the time to develop the young players.  We know that Bortuzzo and Despres are solid defenders that have have their fair share of time for the Penguins in years past.  I don’t think they will have a tough time adjusting.  Maattaa has still been a great asset to the team at such a young age.

Tonight will be a test for the defense, but I think they will be fine for now.