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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Old School

So, Zack Kassian has a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety Monday after doing things the old-fashioned way and taking the law into his own hands with Matt Tkachuk during the Calgary Flames 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday. Of course, he does.

While Oilers’ fans and old-schoolers enjoyed every moment watching Kassian rag-doll a reeling Tkachuk in response to being blindsided by him twice in a game that finally lived up to the old Battle of Alberta moniker, there’s absolutely no way the NHL is going to let that fly. They can’t and they won’t. Kassian is going to be suspended. The question is for how many games.

I’m conflicted about that. On one hand, I’m of the vintage that I’ve got no problem with Kassian going after Tkachuk in the wake of two hits that were sneaky dirty. Both sent Kassian flying and neither was called by the officials. Kassian wanted to fight. Tkachuk clearly didn’t. Kassian tried to pump him anyway, firing about 10 punches and landing many of them. I’ve seen far worse. The incident injected, truth be told, some much-needed emotion into a BOA that has lacked it too often in recent years.

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On the other hand, as deserved as you or I might think Kassian’s actions were, we’re not at a time and place where the NHL is willing to default to the way such on-ice issues were handled back in the day – if you run around looking for trouble, don’t expect the league to bail you out when somebody comes calling. I always thought that worked fine, but that’s not where the game is at today. We can’t go back. I’m guessing the NHL doesn’t care a bit if you or I disagree with that.

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FIGHTING WORDS

“He’s just a young punk that has to figure that aspect out in the game,” Kassian said of Tkachuk. “It’s sad because he’s a pretty good player but he’s a pussy. If you’re going to hit like that you have to answer the bell every once in a while. Especially one, two, three in the game.

In the third he followed me into the corner, right? He’s clearly trying to target me, which I like. I’m standing here. I love that stuff. It’s sad because he’s a pretty good player but he’s a pussy, to be honest. Straight up. That’s the definition of it. Wouldn’t fight me two years ago. Said I was a fourth-liner. Now I have 13 goals. What’s the excuse now?”

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There is no excuse. What happened Saturday isn’t just what Tkachuk does, it’s what he is and how he’s wired. Tkachuk is a helluva player who stirs the pot, but his gloves are sewn to his jersey when an opponent rings the bell. We’ve seen players like Tkachuk before. Instigator. Agitator. Pick a handle. It worked for the Flames Saturday – they got the winner on the back end of the double-minor Kassian was assessed.

“If (Kassian) doesn’t want to get hit, then stay off the tracks,” said Tkachuk, who wasn’t apologizing after the game. I caught him three times there. You think he’d learn after the first one. If he wants to react that way, we’ll take the power play, we’ll take the game-winner, and we’ll move on to first place.”

I think Tkachuk got away with a headshoton the first hit. I think Kassian got off light with the double-minor. He certainly got his money’s worth. Bottom line, though, is the Flames made Kassian pay. “I’d like to see him get a number,” coach Dave Tippett said of Kassian’s decision to go off on Tkachuk. “You’re in a tight game, it’s 3-3, get a number and deal with it later. Deal with winning the game . . . I wish we could have killed the penalty for him.”

THE WAY I SEE IT

The way I see it, Tkachuk did what he does. With no call on either hit, Kassian responded as he felt he needed to. The whole series of events put the kind of jolt into both fan bases that has been lacking for too long. I’d be fine with leaving it at, calling it good and just letting the teams get back at it when they meet again Jan. 29.

The way events unfolded Saturday, that would make the most sense, if you ask me, but no. It’s obvious there’s no way that’s going to happen. Kassian has a hearing with NHL Player Safety on Monday and he’ll be suspended. Of course, he will.

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