Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian was suspended for seven games by the NHL on Friday for kicking Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Erik Cernak.
Kassian and Cernak were tangled up late in the first period of Edmonton's 3-1 loss in Tampa on Thursday night when Oilers forward Josh Archibald was knocked down and took both of them to the ice with him.
With all three players in a pile, Cernak got up to one knee. Kassian, who was still on his back, drew his right leg back and delivered a kick to Cernak's chest.
Kassian had argued that he was trying to disentangle himself from the pile of players, but the NHL's department of player safety dismissed that idea in a statement, noting that pileups occur regularly in hockey games without anyone getting kicked.
The suspension comes a month after Kassian was suspended two games for grabbing Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk by the collar, throwing him to the ice, and punching him several times.
That altercation occurred in the second period of the Flames' 4-3 home win over the Oilers on Jan. 11. Kassian received two minor penalties for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct.
His attack on Tkachuk followed a hard check into the boards by the Flames player that sent Kassian's helmet flying. Tkachuk refused to fight Kassian after the hit, a decision that was widely debated by fans and commentators.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2020.