Tkachuk says not fighting Kassian was ‘probably the right thing to do’

Hockey Central debate on whether Matthew Tkachuk should have answered the bell and fight Zack Kassian during Saturday's game, and whether he should be ready to go in their next game, or leave it up to Zac Rinaldo or Milan Lucic.

MONTREAL – Matthew Tkachuk stands by his decision to avoid fighting Zack Kassian Saturday.

In fact, he says a large number of NHLers would have done the same thing he did Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers tough guy.

“(Not fighting) was probably the right thing to do right there,” said Tkachuk Monday, following the Calgary Flames’ morning skate at Bell Centre. “If it was a different type of player, maybe. Maybe someone closer to me out there, maybe. But it wasn’t the right time to do it against the right person.”

A master at steering his way through controversies like these, one can read anything you’d like into “someone closer to me.”

Does he mean someone closer in skill, meaning he was taking another dig at the Oilers winger?

Or does he mean someone closer in terms of toughness?

“I have a feeling half the people in the league wouldn’t go with that guy,” he added, appearing to clarify himself somewhat. “I just think I’d rather be out there than in the box with him, and I’m sure if you ask my teammates they’d rather me out there than taken off the ice for however long with him.”

Tkachuk’s second of three targeted blasts on Kassian in the latest Battle of Alberta prompted the volatile Kassian to immediately drop the gloves in search of retribution. With two minutes left in the second period of a 3-3 game, he grabbed hold of Tkachuk and hammered him with with more than a half dozen lefts while the Flames star grasped his head in self defence, gloves firmly affixed to his hands.

Once the violent exchange was over, Tkachuk calmly skated to the Flames bench while Kassian was ushered off to serve a two minors and a ten-minute misconduct, during which the Flames scored the game-winning goal.

Kassian has a hearing Monday with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to answer for his one-ice actions and, potentially, his off-colour comments post-game.

Asked if he felt vindicated by the hearing for Kassian, Tkachuk played dumb.

“I honestly haven’t really been paying attention to social media too much,” said Tkachuk, who is well-known to watch games and developments around the league closer than anyone. “That’s the first I’ve really heard of it.”

Should Kassian be suspended?

“It’s not my call,” he said. “I’m happy I don’t have to make those decisions. Those guys have a really tough job.”

Asked if he still considered Kassian a fourth liner, which he clearly isn’t anymore, Tkachuk wouldn’t bite.

“I have no comment for that.”

Tkachuk had plenty to say after the game, following up the heated affair with one of the quotes of the year:

“If he doesn’t want to get hit, then stay off the tracks,” said the Flames winger of his second-favourite NHL target, whom he had refused to fight in similar fashion last year. “I caught him three times there – you think he’d learn after the first one. If he wants to react that way we’ll take the power play, we’ll take the game winner, and we’ll move on to first place.”

The Flames did take over tops in the Pacific Division with the win and will look to continue their five-game winning streak Monday night in Montreal to kick off a three game road swing that takes them through Toronto and Ottawa before the mandated break.

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