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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Off the Top of My Head

When Zack Kassian is at his best, which we haven’t seen often enough since he inked a four-year, $12.8 million contract in January 2020, he’s a formidable blend of speed, physicality and mayhem. That’s what makes Kassian a handy guy to have around – even if there’s almost no chance he’ll ever live up to the numbers on that new deal.

So, it was good to see Kassian back on the blades in a 5-2 win over the Calgary Flames last night, seven days after a scary incident in which he hit his head on the ice and was knocked unconscious in a fight with Zack MacEwen in a game with the Vancouver Canucks. The details we know. Fighting and the risks that come with it are part of the gig for Kassian.

“I remember falling, having the ‘uh oh’ moment and then I remember coming to with a lot of people around me,” said Kassian, who marked his return by mixing it up with Nikita Zadorov and assisting on Derek Ryan’s 1-0 goal. “It’s tough to see, but at the same time when you play hockey, you’re on blades and you don’t wear a helmet sometimes. It can be dangerous. I’ve been in multiple fights before, even through my junior days, and that’s never happened.”

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Playing the right side with Warren Foegele and Ryan against the Flames, it looks like this can be a pretty good trio — one capable of banging some and scoring some, which is something coach Dave Tippett didn’t get enough of from his bottom six last season. If there’s the odd punch-up with somebody like Matthew Tkachuk along the way, that’s a bonus. That opening goal by Ryan, with assists to Kassian and Foegele, is what Tippett is looking for.

“We talked about having a line that can play heavy, get around the opposition’s net a little more and be a little harder to play against,” Tippett said. “That’s a line that we think can do that a lot better than we have in the past. Kass is going to come back from injury but in the last game they played, they were coming. They looked like a line that could work.”

Yes, we know Kassian is capable of moving up the lineup and playing in short stints because he skates so well and knows what to do around the net. It’s a nice luxury to have the option of changing things up, but if Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto take care of business on the right side and allow Tippett to play Kassian on that third line most nights, nobody is going to beef about it. 

CHARLIE AND DARNELL

They’re completely different players with different organizations but Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins joined Darnell Nurse of the Oilers in some select company on Friday – NHL D-men who have contracts with an AAV of $9 million a season or more.

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McAvoy, 23, inked an eight-year deal worth $76 million for an AAV of $9.5 million. Nurse, 26, got an eight-year pact worth $74 million ($9.25 million AAV) in August. I thought Holland paid full market price for Nurse, which is a polite way of saying he came in on the high end. Others deemed it a flat-out overpay.

As for McAvoy, who gets the richest contract in Boston history, the people I’m reading are characterizing it as a good deal for both sides. McAvoy, fifth in Norris Trophy voting last season, will make $4.9 million this season in the last year of his current deal. At his age, there’s lots of room for growth and he’s really good already.

NAMEBAR FAIL

Former Oiler Alex Chiasson has been an NHL player for a decade and he won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018, so you’d figure the big forward would be well enough known that the Vancouver Canucks would spell his name correctly. Well, no.

Chiasson, who inked a deal with the Canucks after attending training camp on the third PTO of his career, was in Vancouver’s line-up in Philadelphia Friday and he scored a goal in a 5-4 shootout win. His name engraved on the Stanley Cup reads “Chiasson,” as did the scoresheet against the Flyers. His name bar read “Chaisson.” Oops.

NO LUCK FOR VEGAS

With a lot of pundits expecting Edmonton and the Vegas Golden Knights to battle it out atop the Pacific Division, it looks like the Oilers caught a break Thursday.

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Max Pacioretty left during a 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings with a broken foot and initial word is he could be out for as long as six weeks. Vegas also lost Mark Stone. If that’s the case with Pacioretty, he would miss as many as 19 games, including two against the Oilers – Oct. 22 and Nov. 27.

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Previously by Robin Brownlee