UPDATE: Kassian has been suspended seven games.
Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian has been offered an in-person hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his kick on Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
Given the play in question, it’s not surprising to see the Department of Player Safety want to have a face-to-face with him. That means his suspension could be more than five games.
Kicking with a skate blade is a matter the NHL has to take seriously. Thankfully, Cernak wasn’t cut on the play. The NHL will usually factor injury into the length of the suspension, but this is one of the cases where they shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter that Cernak was fine after the play. The league has to send Kassian and others the message that using your skate blade in that way is totally unacceptable.
He attempted to justify his actions postgame, but it didn’t make him look any better.
“He was holding my leg, it was reactionary, I was just trying to get him off me, kick him off me,” Kassian said after the game, per the Edmonton Sun. “I was just trying to get my foot loose. I was laying there for a while, a couple of seconds, so I was just trying to pull my leg out.
“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 down, I didn’t even know where the puck was I was trying to pull my leg up and get up.”
Over the course of the last little while, two players have been injured by blades. Red Wings forward Brendan Perlini was forced from a game against Buffalo after he caught a Henri Jokiharju skate to the face. Meanwhile, Islanders forward Casey Cizikas was sliced on the leg by Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov. Both these incidents were accidental, but they’re an important reminder that a skate blade can do some serious damage.
To make matters worse for Kassian, he’ll be considered a repeat offender in the Department of Player Safety’s eyes. He was suspended two games last month for being an aggressor in an altercation with Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. Regardless of how you feel about that incident, you can’t take this one lightly.
“I knew right away when he was on the ice he kicked me,” Cernak explained. “I think he was little bit mad and I asked him what was wrong with him, because that’s not a right play to do on the ice and he didn’t say nothing, so I don’t know. He kicked me right in the chest, so luckily that wasn’t higher.”
Yesterday was a tough day for the league. Many were left puzzled after Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara received nothing more than a $5,000 fine for cross-checking Habs winger Brendan Gallagher in the chops. Teammate Brad Marchand‘s spear on Jeff Petry resulted in the Bruins forward getting four minutes in penalties, but no supplemental discipline either.
Using your skate in that manner just can’t happen. The league needs to make an example out Kassian in this situation.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.