Drew Doughty

Kassian says Tkachuk ‘messed with the wrong guy,’ hypes Oilers-Flames rematch

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Fans of “old-time hockey” should be delighted by the boiling disdain between Zack Kassian and Matthew Tkachuk. Kassian spoke with the media following his two-game suspension on Tuesday, and the trash talk keeps getting better. Kassian tossed out plenty of gems, including that Tkachuk “messed with the wrong guy” and that the pest will “get his.”

The media also latched on to a glorious bit of scheduling symmetry. The Edmonton Oilers host the Calgary Flames on Jan. 29 … Kassian’s first game back from that suspension. If bloodthirsty fans aren’t sated, realize this: the two teams meet again in Calgary on Feb. 1.

You can observe Kassian’s full press conference in the video above this post’s headline.

Kassian says Tkachuk will need to ‘answer the bell’

Consider a few of the best cuts amid Kassian’s many gems:

  • While Kassian said he respects the NHL’s decision, he also said he’d do it again.
  • The NHL did not suspend Tkachuk for two controversial hits on Kassian, with ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski receiving the league’s explanation that the hits were legal. Kassian referenced George Parros deeming Tkachuk’s hits as legal multiple times, particularly begging for ominous music to play in the background.

After speaking with Parros on the phone he explained why the hit is not dirty. That cleared up a lot and gave me some clarity on what you can and can’t do, and I put that in the memory bank,” Kassian said, via Jason Gregor’s transcript at Oilers Nation. ” … To me those are two dangerous hits.

If they are clean, they are still predatorial, which is completely fine. I am a big boy, I love big boy hockey, but if you are going to play big boy hockey you have to answer the bell sometime.”

  • Kassian also used the phrase “answer the bell.” Quite often. As in, you almost expect a freeze frame where Zack Morris speaks to the studio audience about “The Battle of Alberta.” The real questions: which Flames/Oilers are Screech and A.C. Slater? (Maybe T.J. Brodie is A.C.?)
  • Kassian said he received about 20 text messages of support, some from people he doesn’t know. The implication is clear: lots of people don’t like Tkachuk. Shocking. You think Drew Doughty sent a few emojis Kassian’s way?

Will Tkachuk get the better of Kassian in the ways that matter — again?

Yes, Tkachuk got ragdolled. From a meathead perspective, it might have stung his pride.

But pointing at the scoreboard can be the best insult in sports at times, and Tkachuk could make that gesture. The Flames ended up scoring the decisive power-play goal on Kassian’s penalties. It’s classic pest one-upping: baiting an angry opponent into foolish mistakes. Tkachuk is talented and great at getting under opponents’ skin, to the point that it might be better not to engage.

That doesn’t seem to be the plan for Kassian … yet he’s aiming for better execution.

” … I have to be a bit smarter. I have to be on the ice in important games,” Kassian said, via Gregor. “Now that I know how the league sees hits … When you play Calgary it is a different rule book. You have to play the game within the game and sometimes you have to give them a taste of their own medicine.”

The thing is, if Kassian and Tkachuk both ended up in the penalty box for matching minor infractions, that would be great for Edmonton. The Flames need Tkachuk on the ice, tasking him with walking that line. Kassian failed in finding that balance, at least so far.

You have to wonder: should Oilers coach Dave Tippett try to steer Kassian in a smarter direction? If history repeats itself, the Flames would get the advantage again. Considering how close these teams are in the standings, Edmonton cannot afford to take penalties just so a pesky star “gets his.”

Kassian said that this rivalry is creating a buzz, and he’s right that this is fun. The Oilers risk feeling hungover when they look at the standings when the buzz wears off, though.

Oh, and guess what? The two teams also close out the regular season in Edmonton on April 4. The “Battle of Alberta” and Kassian vs. Tkachuk are wars that are just beginning.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Zack Kassian snaps on Matthew Tkachuk, throws punches in wild attack

(The Department of Player Safety announced that Zack Kassian will face a Monday hearing.)

Just, wow. Zack Kassian absolutely lost his mind on Matthew Tkachuk during Saturday’s 4-3 Flames win over the Oilers. While many probably responded with “understandable” at losing your cool at Tkachuk, Kassian responded to the pest in an extreme way.

Yes, even for Tkachuk, whose pesty play borders on Kaufman-like troll art.

[Speaking of trolling, they exchanged serious trash talk after the game.]

The first hit

“The Battle of Alberta” often brings the heat, and Saturday appears to be a prime edition.

Tkachuk set the stage for Kassian rage with this first hit, which certainly qualifies as questionable:

From here, it looked like Tkachuk made contact with Kassian’s head, but there was no penalty. Maybe that made Kassian even angrier? Really, a long game of Tkachuk jawing and having that freaking mouthpiece hanging out would be enough to wear on even the Zen-like among us.

Another Tkachuk hit, and then lots of Kassian punches

So here’s where things really got out of hand.

Tkachuk leveled Kassian with yet another aggressive check, and that was enough. Kassian responded with a stunning flurry of violence on Tkachuk that you really need to see to believe. He even ragdolls Tkachuk during that attack. Watch it, probably with your jaw dropped, in the video above this post’s headline.

Again: wow.

Optics-wise, you’d think that Kassian might see supplemental discipline. That was an epic meltdown, one where the “fight” seemed like it should be over at least once.

While time will tell if the NHL decides to suspend Kassian at some point, the gritty winger put the Oilers in a tough spot. Kassian received a misconduct, but most importantly, a double-minor for roughing late in the second. The Flames began the third period with a golden opportunity, and took a 4-3 lead early in the final frame of regulation.

Say what you will about Tkachuk, he finds a way to get under the skin of his opponents. Even if Kassian avoids supplemental discipline, he already made a mistake.

What do you think should result from Kassian’s actions? Should Tkachuk receive supplemental discipline for his questionable hit(s)?

Also, what’s the perfect soundtrack for the slow-motion footage? No, “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” doesn’t really work here, in my opinion.

Final question: does Kassian despise Tkachuk more than Drew Doughty now? Lofty stuff.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Matthews reaches new heights; Flyers defeat Capitals

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Three Stars

1) Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets

Scheifele recorded a regulation goal and a critical shootout tally to help the Jets win their second straight game. The underrated center is second in the NHL with 25 points since December 3rd, according to Sportsnet. Midway through the second period, Scheifele wired a wrister from the right face-off circle to give the Jets a 3-2 lead. In the shootout, he scored a timely goal in the bottom half of the third round to force extra innings.

2) Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Matthews became the first American-born skater and first Maple Leafs player to score 30 or more goals in each of his first four NHL seasons in Toronto’s 4-3 shootout loss against the Winnipeg Jets. His second goal of the game came with 14 seconds remaining to force overtime. The 22-year-old also evened the score at 1-1 early in the first period when his wrist shot sailed past Connor Hellebuyck.

3) Kevin Hayes, Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers center converted a nifty shorthanded breakaway in the final minutes of the second period to help Philadelphia capture a 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals. Scott Laughton forced John Carlson to turn the puck over and Hayes dashed up ice to take advantage of the opportunity. Hayes deftly moved the puck from his forehand to his backhand to beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.

Highlights of the Night

The overtime session between the Maple Leafs and Jets was exhilarating. John Tortorella was right when he said we should eliminate the shootout and play more three-on-three hockey. Frederik Andersen made a number of impressive saves during the extra period, including this beauty.

In addition to the overtime, the shootout didn’t disappoint with some incredibly quick releases.

Blooper of the Night

Drew Doughty tests out a new position

Stats of the Night

NHL Scores

Winnipeg Jets 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 3 (SO)

Philadelphia Flyers 3, Washington Capitals 2

Dallas Stars 2, Los Angeles Kings 1

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

NHL on NBCSN: 5 Kings that could be traded before deadline

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Last year, the St. Louis Blues proved that being in last place in early January doesn’t mean your season is over. Are you tired of hearing that yet? It seems like a lot of the teams that are outside of the playoffs right now are using that as their slogan. The reality is, the Blues were the exception to the rule.

So, don’t be surprised if the Kings don’t go from the Western Conference basement to a playoff spot this season. Los Angeles is in the middle of a rebuild that will take some time. They have good core pieces like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, but there’s too many elements missing around them.

The Kings currently own a 17-23-4 record, which is fourth-worst in the league. General manager Rob Blake will have some tough decisions to make this season, but deciding whether or not to be a seller at the trade deadline isn’t one of them.

Blake will have to find a way to unload some of the veterans he has on the team so that he can accumulate draft picks and prospects to help with the rebuild.

Who could be on the move?

Tyler Toffoli – Forward

Toffoli is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so he’ll be an intriguing rental for one of the contenders out there. The 27-year-old has 11 goals and 24 points in 43 games. He’s surpassed the 20-goal mark three different times and he scored 30 goals once. There are plenty of teams that need secondary scoring and that’s exactly what Toffoli would provide.

Trevor Lewis – Forward

Lewis isn’t as big of a name as Toffoli, but he could be a useful depth forward for a team looking to improve their bottom two lines. The 33-year-old has one goal and six points in 31 games this season. His advanced stats are particularly interesting. When he’s on the ice, the Kings control 53.89 percent of the shot attempts, 55 percent of the expected goals for and 51.69 percent of the high-danger scoring chances. Lewis can also play any of the three forward positions. He’s going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Kyle Clifford – Forward

Like Toffoli and Lewis, Clifford is also going to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. The 28-year-old has that coveted size that a lot of teams are looking for a depth forward. Clifford has five goals and 12 points in 43 games this season. When he’s on the ice, the Kings have 56.24 percent of the shot share, 57.2 percent of the XGF% and 57.59 percent of the high danger scoring chances.

Derek Forbort – Defense

Forbort made his regular-season debut on Monday night. He missed an extended period of time with a back injury, but he appears to be healthy. If he can stay on the ice, the pending unrestricted free agent will be able to build up some value on the trade market. The 27-year-old has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game over the last three seasons. A contender will roll the dice on Forbort if he’s healthy.

Alec Martinez – Defense

Martinez wouldn’t be a pure rental. He has this year and next year remaining on his contract at a reasonable cap hit of $4 million. The 32-year-old missed a good chunk of the season with a wrist injury, but he’s been back for two games now. He’s averaged over 21 minutes of ice time since the 2015-16 season. Martinez’s track record and his reasonable salary make him an interesting pick up for any team looking to improve their back end.

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Patrick Sharp and Keith Jones and Bob McKenzie. Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside analyst Jim Fox from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Bergeron, Giroux, Toews highlight NHL All-Star Last Men In vote

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We know who will be going to St. Louis for next month’s NHL All-Star Game. But the rosters still need to be finalized with one more player representing each division.

The NHL is bringing back the “Last Men In” vote where fans will be able to select another forward or defenseman who will take a place on the rosters for the Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central, and Pacific Divisions. Due to roster constraints and trying to get every team represented there are plenty of names who missed out on the initial announcement. Here, along with potential injury replacements between now and then, is a chance to get added.

Per the NHL, voting (NHL.com/Vote)for the “Last Men In” opens Wednesday, Jan. 1, at 12 p.m. ET and closes Friday, Jan. 10, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Fans will be permitted to select as few as one player and a maximum of four players per ballot. The maximum number of ballots cast per 24-hour period for each fan is 10.

[NHL reveals 2020 All-Star Game rosters]

Here are the players who could make their way to St. Louis:

Atlantic Division
Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron
Buffalo Sabres: Rasmus Dahlin
Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin
Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov
Montreal Canadiens: Max Domi
Ottawa Senators: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
Toronto Maple Leafs: Mitch Marner

Central Division
Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews
Colorado Avalanche: Cale Makar
Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn
Minnesota Wild: Ryan Suter
Nashville Predators: Matt Duchene
St. Louis Blues: David Perron
Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine

Metropolitan Division
Carolina Hurricanes: Teuvo Teravainen
Columbus Blue Jackets: Nick Foligno
New Jersey Devils: Nico Hischier
New York Islanders: Brock Nelson
New York Rangers: Mika Zibanejad
Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux
Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Letang
Washington Capitals: T.J. Oshie

Pacific Division
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf
Arizona Coyotes: Clayton Keller
Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau
Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty
San Jose Sharks: Tomas Hertl
Vancouver Canucks: Quinn Hughes
Vegas Golden Knights: Max Pacioretty

The 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 24 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2020 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 25 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

MORE: Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 NHL All-Star Game

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.