Exactly one month to the day after the Edmonton Oilers’ Zack Kassian earned himself a two-game suspension for lighting up Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk, he’s been disciplined by the league again.
The eight-year NHL veteran was seen trying to kick the Lightning’s Erik Cernak in the chest with his skate during a scrum in the first period of Thursday night’s game in Tampa Bay.
On Friday night, NHL Player Safety announced via twitter that Kassian had been suspended for seven games.
“He was holding my leg, it was reactionary, I was just trying to get him off me, kick him off,” Kassian said after the game. “If I kicked him hard, I think he would have flew back or the ref would have called a penalty. I was trying to get off and pull my leg off. He was holding me and Archie [Josh Archibald] down, I didn’t even know where the puck was. I was trying to pull my leg up and get up. It felt like we were there a lifetime, we were down there for a while.”
Cernak told reporters he thought Kassian was “a little bit mad” during the incident and was thankful the Oiler’s skate wasn’t any higher.
#tblightning Erik Cernak on Oilers Kassian kicking him in chest with skate: “I think he was a little bit mad. I asked him what was wrong with him? Because that’s not the right play, what to do on the ice. He didn’t say nothing. So I don’t know. Lucky it wasn’t higher.”
— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) February 14, 2020
Kassian waived his right to an in-person hearing, instead opting for a phone hearing Friday afternoon with the NHL’s department of player safety, giving the league the option to suspend him for six games or more.
It’s far from the first time Kassian has dealt with disciplinary issues in his career — his first run-in with the league was back in 2013 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. He was suspended for the first five games of the 2013-14 season for an intentional high-stick. He was suspended again for three games later that season after a dirty hit on Dallas’ Brenden Dillon.
Kassian also sat out 32 games in the 2015-16 season during a stint with Montreal for substance abuse issues unrelated to on-ice conduct. Any suspension he receives for Thursday’s incident would be the fifth of his career.
The seven-game suspension means he’ll be eligible to return for the Oilers’ game against Winnipeg on Feb. 29.