Oilers' Zack Kassian suspended 7 games for kicking Lightning's Erik Cernak with skate blade

© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL Department of Player Safety suspended Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian for seven games after he kicked Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak skate blade-up during Thursday's 3-1 loss. This is the fourth suspension of the forward's career.

The incident itself happened early in the first period when the two players and another Oilers player were caught in a pile. As Cernak got up, Kassian kicked his skate blade at the chest of the defenseman. There was no penalty assessed at the time it happened.

Kassian's defense to the league was that he was using his blade to push off an opponent, rather than just kicking with malicious intentions. But the NHL determined that his explanation "in no way justifies this action." It's worth noting that the league did acknowledge "Kassian's argument that he was trying to disentangle from a pile of players." The Oilers, meanwhile, argued that the kick wasn't forceful, an argument that has worked with the league before. Ultimately, the fact that the blade was used, regardless of force, was too much for the league to excuse.

"While we agree with Kassian that this play is not malicious, any player that intentionally uses the blade of his skate to contact an opponent, no matter the amount of force used, is putting his opponent in immediate risk of serious injury," the NHL said.

Kassian was suspended for two games on Jan. 13 after starting a one-sided fight with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. The forward will forfeit $166,463.43 while serving this most recent punishment.

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