Videos : Breaking: James Neal leaves the game after getting rocked by Dustin Byfuglien.
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Breaking: James Neal leaves the game after getting rocked by Dustin Byfuglien.

Neal appears to be knocked out by Byfuglien's elbow.

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It didn't look like much when you watched the play develop, it looked like even less when you watched the instant replay, but there was asolutely no doubt that Las Vegas Golden Knights star forward James Neal was completely out of it by the time that he made it back to the Las Vegas Golden Knights bench.

Neal went down in the very first period of Game 3 during the Western Conference Final in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it seems like Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien may have been responsible for the apparent injury to Neal. The big bad Jets' defenseman didn't seem to do a whole lot on the play but based on the camera angles that have been shown thus far the only thing that I think may have happened here is that Byfgulien caught Neal up high, in the head, with an elbow of some sort. Now to be clear I don't want to accuse Byfuglien of anything because I have yet to see any kind of conclusive camera angle from the broadcast but it really is the only thing I can think of that would justify the reaction from Neal.

In fact my initial thoughts upon watching this live was that Neal deserved a penalty for embellishment on the play, but his body language as he tried to get back to his feet as well as the body language he displayed on his way back to the Golden Knights bench quickly changed my mind. By the time Neal was sitting on the bench again I was convinced that he had been badly rocked on the play, may in fact have been concussed by whatever it is that did happen, and the vacant look on his face and in his eyes as trainers looked at him only strengthen my belief that Neal absolutely had his bell rung.

After just a few short seconds on the bench Neal was quickly ushered back to the Golden Knights locker room although again we don't have very many details on what happened here. Was it Neal himself that decided he needed to go back to the locker room? Was it the trainers on the Golden Knights staff? Or did a National Hockey League concussion spotter see the same thing that I did and determine that Neal needed to be pulled out of the game for his own personal safety. For the record if it was the NHL that pulled him off the bench here I think the right decision was made, it's clear that Neal was not ok as a result of this incident. 

The most interesting thing here will be whether or not we eventually get to see additional camera angles that might give us a better idea of what exactly happened here. If this turns out to be a blatant elbow to the head from Byfuglien it's not unreasonable to think that he may be headed for suspension, but again there isn't anything right now that suggests this was indeed the case. 

Here's a look at the one angle we do have right now.

Update: If it was the NHL concussion spotter that pulled Neal from the game it seems he passed whatever test they laid out for him because he returned to the game and played on the Golden Knights power play at the end of the first period.

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