Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian has been suspended seven games for kicking Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak in the chest with his skate.
The incident took place during the first period of Thursday night’s game in Florida.
The two players were tangled up as they fell to the ice after a hit along the boards, along with Oilers winger Josh Archibald. Cernak remained on top of the pile-up, keeping both Oilers from rejoining the play. As Kassian fought to get free, he drew his leg up and kicked Cernak in the chest.
“I asked what is wrong with him because that’s not the right play, what you do on the ice,” Cernak said. “He didn’t say [anything].”
Kassian defended his actions as part of the battle.
“He was holding my leg, it was reactionary, I was just trying to get him off me, kick him off me. I was just trying to get my foot loose,” Kassian said. “If I kicked him hard, I think he would have flew back or the ref would have called a penalty.”
Linesman Matt MacPherson moved in to break up the pile just as the players separated.
No penalty was called on the play by referees Dan O’Halloran and Pierre Lambert. Cernak was not injured.
Here’s the NHL Rule Book on kicking:
49.1 Kicking – The action of a player deliberately using his skate(s) with a kicking motion to propel the puck or to contact an opponent.
49.3 Match Penalty – A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who kicks or attempts to kick another player. Whether or not an injury occurs, the Referee will impose a five (5) minute time penalty under this rule.
The league’s last kicking suspension came in 2012, when Carolina’s Jeff Skinner was suspended two games for kicking Scott Nichol, then with the St. Louis Blues.
Prior to that, Ottawa Senators forward Martin Havlat was suspended twice for kicking, picking up a two-game ban in 2004 followed by a 5-gamer the following season.
The league has also handed down suspensions for stomping, with Chris Pronger sitting eight games for stomping on Ryan Kesler in 2008 and Bobby Ryan missing two playoff games for skatework on Jonathan Blum in 2011.
The Oilers’ winger waived his right to an in-person hearing. His sentence was handed down via phone hearing with Player Safety on Friday.
This is Kassian’s fourth suspension. He sat for two games just over a month ago when he was suspended for acting as the aggressor in an altercation with Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk. He was suspended twice during the 2013-14 season. Kassian missed eight games – five preseason and three regular season – for high-sticking Vancouver’s Sam Gagner. Later that season, he received a three-game suspension for boarding Vancouver’s Brendan Dillon.
Kassian is considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, will forfeit $166,463.43.
He is eligible to return to the Oilers’ lineup when they face the Winnipeg Jets on February 29.