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Oilers’ Zack Kassian suspended 7 games for kicking Lightning’s Erik Cernak

Kassian hit Cernak in the chest with his skate blade during an entanglement in Thursday’s game.
February 13, 2020: Edmonton Oilers Right Wing Zack Kassian (44) and Tampa Bay Lightning Defenseman Eric Cernak (81)during the NHL game between the Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. Brian McWalters/CSM(Credit Image: © Brian Mcwalters/CSM via ZUMA Wire) [BRIAN MCWALTERS |]

NEW YORK — Oilers forward Zack Kassian was suspended seven games by the NHL on Friday for kicking Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak in the chest with his skate blade.

Kassian swung his right leg and kicked Cernak in the chest during the Lightning’s 3-1 win Thursday night. He was offered an in-person hearing that allowed the Department of Player Safety to suspend him more than seven games and waived that chance.

Late in the first period, Kassian and Cernak were tangled up on the ice after being knocked over by Edmonton’s Josh Archibald. Kassian looked directly at Cernak before kicking him and getting up.

“I asked what is wrong with him because that’s not the right play, what you do on the ice," Cernak said after the game. "He didn’t say (anything).”

“(Cernak) was holding my leg," Kassian said. "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. If I kicked him hard, I think he would have flew back or the ref would have called a penalty.”

No penalty was called on the play.

The league said it agreed with Kassian that he was trying to disentangle himself but said the kick was in no way justified. The Oilers argued that Kassian’s kick was not forceful, but the league contended that it’s different from a hit and any intentional or careless kicking with a skate blade won’t be tolerated.

Kassian will forfeit $166,463 as a result of the suspension because he’s a repeat offender. This is his fourth career suspension in 518 regular-season games.

He was also suspended two games last month for his role in an altercation with the Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk.

Kassian will be eligible to return Feb. 29 against the Jets.

Times staff writer Diana C. Nearhos contributed to this report.