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Edmonton Oilers’ Zack Kassian suspended 2 games for altercation with Tkachuk

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Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian has been suspended for two games for going after Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk on Saturday night.

In a video, the NHL’s department of player safety said Kassian served as the aggressor in the altercation, calling Tkachuk “an unwilling combatant.”

Kassian will be eligible to resume playing games when the Oilers face off against the Flames on Jan. 29.

The league said in a statement that Kassian was suspended without pay and will forfeit USD$20,967.74 under terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

The Oilers forward reacted after Tkachuk pounded him with a body check near the Flames net.

READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers end road trip with loss in Calgary

“It’s just kind of a gutless hit on a guy in a very vulnerable position,” Oilers forward James Neal said of the hit. “I don’t understand what he’s saying, ‘Stay off the tracks.’ It’s just ridiculous.”

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After the game, Tkachuk told reporters, “If he [Kassian] doesn’t want to get hit, then stay off the tracks. I caught him three times there. You’d think he’d learn after the first one.”

Tkachuk showed no interest in fighting Kassian, who was assessed a double minor. Speaking in Montreal on Monday, Tkachuk explained why he didn’t feel the need to drop his gloves.

“It was probably the right thing for me to do there. It was a different type of player, maybe. Maybe someone closer to me out there, maybe. 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,” said Tkachuk.

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When told of Tkachuk’s comments, Neal blasted back.

“Well, then don’t be taking 12-foot runs at him trying to kill him. You don’t see anyone else in the league doing that because they know they have to fight him,” said Neal. “Am I going to see (Milan Lucic) coming around the net and go target his head and run 12-feet and try to kill him? No, because he’s going to kill me.”

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Defenceman Darnell Nurse knows what Kassian went through in his hearing. He was suspended for three games in March 2016 for being the aggressor in a fight with Roman Polak.

“It’s not fun. You got to go and plead your case — case where he wasn’t in the wrong. You hope they look at all parts of the situation, not just the penalty that he got, but all parts of the situation,” Nurse said. “There’s a hit or two in there we’ve been taking about in the league trying to take away from the game.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers’ Darnell Nurse gets 3-game suspension

“He’s our heart and soul,” Leon Draisaitl said of Kassian. “Everybody loves him. Everybody on this team really admires what he does on a nightly basis.”

Draisaitl will be teammates with Tkachuk on the Pacific Division all-star team in St. Louis on Jan. 25. He’s not thrilled about the prospect of playing a shift with Tkachuk.

“Probably get off the ice,” said Draisaitl.

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The Oilers will host Nashville on Tuesday night.