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Edmonton Oilers Zack Kassian suspended seven games for kicking Cernak

Edmonton Oilers F Zack Kassian has been suspended seven games for kicking Tampa Bay Lightning D Erik Cernak in the chest Thursday night.

The NHL department of player safety said while they agree that with Kassian’s assessment that the play was not malicious, it is “an act for which there is no justification.”

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The incident happened late in the first period against the Lightning when Kassian, Cernak and Josh Archibald all got tangled up. As the trio tried to untangle themselves, Kassian appeared to free his right leg and kick Cernak in the chest.

Kassian was not penalized on the play and after the game Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said he hadn’t seen what happened and the benches weren’t addressed.

Kassian spoke to reporters after the saying “I was trying to get my leg out and get moving.”

“That play he was holding my leg and it was just reactionary. I just tried to get loose. I was laying there awhile and I was trying to get my leg out and get moving,” he said.

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Kassian will be missing games: Florida, Carolina, vs. Boston, vs. Minnesota, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Vegas. He will be eligible to return for a home game on Feb. 29 against the Winnipeg Jets.

The NHL department of player safety said this in their suspension video:

“Kassian briefly maintains his grasp on Cernak who quickly gets back to one knee. As he does so, Kassian, who is looking directly at Cernak, draws his leg back and delivers a kick to the chest of Cernak. This is kicking. It’s important to note that while we acknowledge Kassian’s argument that he was trying to disentangle from the pile of players, that in no way justify’s this action….

Kassian acknowledges using the blade of his skate to push off from his opponent to gain space — an act for which there is no justification…. We must emphasize that using a skate blade to make intentional, or reckless contact with an opponent regardless of the purpose is entirely different from a hit that’s involving a players body or stick as there is minimal force required to dangerous injure an opponent. Therefore, while we agree with Kassian’s assessment that this play is not malicious, any player who intentionally and carelessly uses the blade of a skate to contact an opponent, no matter the force used, engages in kicking and is putting his opponent at serious risk.

This will be Kassian’s fourth suspension in his 518 game NHL career. He is a repeat offender under the CBA, having most recently been suspended eight games ago.”

One month to the day, Kassian was suspended by the league for two games for fighting Matthew Tkachuk.

On Twitter: @zjlaing