The NHL Department of Player Safety on Monday announced that Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian has been suspended for two games for his altercation with Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk on Jan. 11.
Kassian — in the league's eyes — violated Rule 46.2 of the NHL rulebook as an aggressor when he dropped his gloves, took Tkachuk to the ice and pummeled him with punches after the Flames agitator had caught him for two big hits during the latest Battle of Alberta matchup. Rule 46.2 states that the "aggressor in an altercation shall be the player who continues to throw punches in an attempt to inflict punishment on his opponent who is in a defenseless position or who is an unwilling combatant."
“It is important to note that at no point does Tkachuk have an opportunity to square up, drop his gloves, or do anything other than attempt to protect himself from the punches being thrown," the league's player safety department said in a video breaking down the altercation and the reasoning for Kassian's suspension.
The incident has turned heads around the league as players, fans and analysts alike debated whether Kassian, who felt Tkachuk had targeted him with illegal hits throughout the game, was justified in taking matters into his own hands.
The league identified both of Tkachuk's hits on Kassian during Saturday's game as "legal, full body checks delivered to a player carrying the puck" to ESPN on Sunday.
— Teemu Selanne (@TeemuSel8nne) January 13, 2020
“While we acknowledge [Kassian's] frustration, players are not excused from grossly violating league rules in retribution or retaliation for hits thrown on them, legal or otherwise," the league's player safety department advised in the video.
Kassian's suspension will cost him $20,967.74 in salary and force him to miss the Oilers' upcoming games against the Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes. His suspension, coincidentally, allows him to return in time for Edmonton's next game against Tkachuk and the Flames on Jan. 29 — one Kassian alluded to looking forward to after the initial incident.
“It’s going to be one of those games where I know [Tkachuk is] not going to fight," he told reporters. "But maybe it’s my turn to deliver something, to follow him around a little and wait until he gets in a bad situation. Simple."