EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian has been suspended two games following his altercation with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk during Saturday night's game. 

Kassian took offence to a hit from Tkachuk in the second period of Edmonton's 4-3 loss, throwing off his gloves and punching the Flames winger while tossing him to the ice twice.

Kassian received a double-roughing minor and a 10-minute misconduct on the play. Tkachuk was not penalized.


The incident has the potential to make for some awkward moments at the upcoming all-star game, where Tkachuk will be teammates on the Pacific Division squad with Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

When asked what he would do if asked to share the ice with Tkachuk during the 3-on-3 tournament, Draisaitl said: “Probably get off the ice.”

Oilers forward James Neal, meanwhile, sneered at Tkachuk's explanation.

“(If you don't want to fight Kassian), well then don't be taking 12-foot runs at him trying to kill him,” said Neal.

“You don't see anybody else in the league doing that because they know they have to fight him.On Twitter, former National Hockey League referee Paul Stewart also took issue with Tkachuk. 

Meanwhile in Montreal, Tkachuk, after a pre-game skate with his Calgary Flames teammates, told reporters if he had to do it all over again he would have done the same thing.

“It (not fighting) was probably the right thing to do for me there,” said Tkachcuk.

“If (Kassian) was a different type of player, maybe (I would have). Maybe somebody closer to me out there.

“But it wasn't the right time to do it, against the right person. I have a feeling half the people in the league wouldn't go with that guy.

“I just think I'd rather be out there than be in the (penalty) box with him, and I'm sure if you ask the rest of my teammates they'd rather (have) me out there instead of (being) taken off the ice.”


The Tkachuk hit, and the ragdoll fight, renewed the debate among reporters, columnists, and fans about predatory hits, rough justice, and when league intervention is appropriate in the age of heightened awareness on player safety and concussions.

Pro-Tkachukers, and Flames fans on social media, say he was right to turtle, that he has fought before (seven times) and that discretion was the better part of valour rather than take a dumb penalty in a close game.

They also note that both hits were deemed clean by the NHL and that maybe Kassian, with 33 fights and more than a thousand hits to his credit, can deliver a good hit but just can't take one.

Pro-Zackers, and Oiler fans, meanwhile, have been posting frame-by-frame breakdowns on Tkachuk's earlier hit as if it was the Zapruder film, positing that it was predatory attack, preceded by four strides and a launch of the feet to target the head.

They have also been gleefully posting memes of Tkachuk with his curly haired face tacked onto the body of a turtle lying on its back, its tiny legs wiggling free, belly open to the sun.

The 28-year-old Kassian has 13 goals, 15 assists and 64 penalty minutes through 44 games with Edmonton this season.

The Oilers next game is Tuesday against Nashville. They host Calgary on Jan. 29.

With files from the Canadian Press