Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian was suspended seven games Friday for kicking an opponent in the chest with his skate.
The incident occurred late in the first period Thursday night. Kassian checked Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak, and Oilers forward Josh Archibald lost his balance and knocked over both. Cernak held the two Oilers down and Kassian pushed his skate into Cernak’s chest before getting up. NHL players have lots of padding on their chest, so Cernak wasn’t hurt.
“He was holding my leg. It was just reactionary,” Kassian said, according to Sportsnet. “I was just trying to get him off me, kick him off me. I was just trying to get my foot loose.”
The Department of Player Safety said Kassian’s argument “in no way justifies this action.”
“NHL players regularly become entangled with opponents and teammates and regularly remove themselves from the pile safely and legally, without putting themselves or their opponents at the risk of serious injury,” the department said in a video.
The Oilers argued that the kick wasn’t forceful and the league agreed that Kassian wasn’t being malicious, but it said hitting with a skate blade is different from a body check or stick infraction.
“There is minimal force required to dangerously cut and injure an opponent,” the league said
The NHL, in fact, has seen a handful of players injured by accidental skate cuts this season: the New York Islanders’ Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, Los Angeles Kings’ Alec Martinez, Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev and Detroit Red Wings’ Brendan Perlini.
A repeat offender with three previous suspensions, including one last month for his altercation with the Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk, Kassian will forfeit $166,463.43 in pay.
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