TAMPA — Zack Kassian may well be getting (another) call from the Department of Player Safety. There’s no kicking in hockey.
The Edmonton winger kicked Erik Cernak in the chest, blade first, during Thursday’s game. The impact does not appear to have been solid, but contact was made.
“I asked what is wrong with him because that’s not the right play, what you do on the ice,” Cernak said. “He didn’t say (anything).”
Cernak was sitting on Kassian and fellow winger Josh Archibald, which should have been an interference penalty, but is a common move to keep someone (in this case someones) out of the play. Kassian pushed himself free and then aimed the kick at Cernak to get him off Archibald.
The play started when Kassian grabbed onto Cernak. Archibald lost his footing and barreled into the pair, upending them. Cernak stayed on top of the pile for an extra few seconds.
A linesman came up behind the play to break up the trio, but only a referee can call a penalty. Both referees were away from that pile watching the puck in play.
“He was holding my leg, it was reactionary, I was just trying to get him off me, kick him off me. I was just trying to get my foot loose,” Kassian said. “If I kicked him hard, I think he would have flew back or the ref would have called a penalty.”
Cernak added it was lucky the kick didn’t land higher. It wouldn’t be far-fetched for Kassian’s skate to have glanced off his chest protector and end up at his neck or face.
Skate cuts don’t happen often but are terrifying when they do. Detroit’s Brendan Perlini took an inadvertent skate to the face on Tuesday and left the ice bleeding heavily. The skate missed his eye. Perlini received stitches across his right cheek and nose and is “doing good,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill told reporters.
Kassian was suspended for two games in January after he jumped Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk, who tried to skate away from the fight.