Mon, 30 Mar 2020

Oilers' Kassian returns for key game vs. Jets

Field Level Media
29 Feb 2020, 11:05 GMT+10

Edmonton forward Zack Kassian returns from a seven-game suspension Saturday night when the Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets.

Kassian, who is fifth on the team in scoring with 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) and also leads with 69 penalty minutes, picked up the suspension for kicking at Tampa Bay defenseman Erik Cernak while trying to untangle himself from a pile during the Lightning's Feb. 13 victory.

It was the second suspension of the season for Kassian, who also picked up a two-gamer for being the aggressor in a fight with Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk on Jan. 11, grabbing the Flames winger by the collar and throwing him to the ice where he then punched him several times.

Edmonton, tied for second in the Pacific Division with Vancouver, went 3-2-2 during Kassian's most recent suspension.

"I feel good," Kassian told reporters after practice Friday. "Obviously, the two weeks seem longer than it really was. It's important for me to have the impact I had at the beginning of the season. The final stretch here are important games and I need to be good for us."

Kassian said he didn't apologize to his teammates for kicking Cernak.

"They know I didn't mean any intent to injure, it was a reactionary play," he said. "I think the best way I can show them how I care and show them I want to be here and help the team is by playing hard when I come back."

Edmonton, trying for just its second playoff appearance since 2006, got good news on the injury front as forwards Andreas Athanasiou, who left the team's 3-0 loss at Vegas on Thursday in the third period with a lower-body injury, Kailer Yamamoto (ankle) and James Neal (foot) all practiced.

However, the team announced defenseman Mike Green, obtained at the trade deadline from Detroit, will be sidelined three-to-four weeks with a sprained MCL.

Winnipeg, tied with Nashville for the second wild card in the Western Conference, comes off a 3-0 home win over Washington on Thursday in the second of a home-and-home with the Capitals. The Jets lost the front end with the Metropolitan Division leaders 4-3 in a shootout on Tuesday in D.C.

Connor Hellebuyck had 34 saves to register his fifth shutout of the season, moving into a tie for the league lead with Marc-Andre Fleury of Vegas and Elvis Merzlikins of Columbus. Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele each had a goal and an assist in Thursday's victory.

"It was a special night for us last night," said defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who had seven blocks. "Any time you can get three points out of four against a team like that, you are feeling pretty good about yourselves. Any time you can shut out a team with that much star power ... Washington is obviously pretty special so that's a good confidence (booster) going in."

Edmonton has two of the top four scorers in league-leader Leon Draisaitl (99 points, 37 goals) and Connor McDavid (87 points, 31 goals).

This is the second of three meetings between the two teams. The Jets won the first one 1-0 in a shootout on Oct. 20 in Winnipeg. Hellebuyck made 28 saves and also stopped both shootout attempts while Connor and Patrik Laine converted on their shootout tries.

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said Laine, who left Thursday's win in the first period after blocking a shot with his left foot or ankle, didn't suffer any broken bones and will make the trip to Edmonton.

--Field Level Media

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