Oilers’ Zack Kassian promises more retribution for Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk after suspension

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The Battle of Alberta is now a war of words, courtesy of Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian and Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.

Kassian defended his attack on Tkachuk during the Oilers’ loss at the Flames on Saturday night, which earned him a misconduct penalty and a two-game suspension from the NHL Department of Player Safety. And he promised more retribution to come after Tkachuk dropped him with two massive, but legal by the NHL’s standards, bodychecks during the game.

“I’d do it all over again,” Kassian said Tuesday. “You play with fire, eventually you’re going to get burned. He messed with the wrong guy. I don’t think he realizes we play in the same division.”

The fight was in response to hits that Kassian felt were predatory in nature. “If he doesn’t want to get hit, then stay off the tracks,” Tkachuk said after the game.

Tkachuk didn’t follow “the code” of hockey violence, opting not to fight after the second of those hits when Kassian dropped the gloves and started punching.

“I’m not fighting him. Tough little trade-off there,” said Tkachuk, who’s tied for the team lead with 38 points. “If he wants to react like that, we’ll take the power play and we’ll take the game-winner and we’ll take first place.”

Kassian felt Tkachuk should have fought him.

“Even if they’re clean, they’re still predatory hits, which is fine. I like big-boy hockey. But if you’re going to play big-boy hockey, you have to answer the bell sometimes. And he clearly hasn’t done that his whole career,” Kassian said. “He’s gonna play the way he wants to play. If he answers the bell right there, I don’t think anything else happens, and maybe he gains a percentage of respect in this league.”

He’ll miss the Oilers’ games against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night and the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night before the team hits its bye week around the All-Star break. He’ll return on Jan. 29, when the Oilers get reacquainted with Calgary in Edmonton.

Kassian said — after taking those hits from Tkachuk, and seeing the NHL’s reaction to them — he now knows were the line is.

“After speaking on the phone, [NHL Player Safety’s George] Parros explained why the hit was not dirty. That cleared up a lot. That gave me some clarity about what you can and can’t do now,” he said “So I’ll put that in the memory bank.”