Tkachuk-Kassian feud adds fire to already heated Battle of Alberta

Edmonton Oilers sparkplug Zack Kassian is already scheming up a proper welcome for his Calgary Flames nemesis Matthew Tkachuk when the teams meet again Jan. 29 at Rogers Place.

War of words ramps up after blind-side hit leads to instant classic

Matthew Tkachuck gets pummeled by Edmonton's Zack Kassian in a game on Saturday night. The Calgary Flames forward wants to put it behind him, at least until the two teams play each other again. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

For his next trip to Edmonton, perhaps Matthew Tkachuk should invest in a new pair of aviator sunglasses — or, at the very least, a wide-brimmed hat to hide his mop of curls.

To put it mildly, the Calgary Flames leading scorer is one unpopular fellow in the metropolis formerly known as the City of Champions.

Edmonton Oilers sparkplug Zack Kassian is already scheming up a proper welcome for his Calgary nemesis when the teams meet again Jan. 29 at Rogers Place.

"It's going to be one of those games where I know he's not going to fight," Kassian bemoaned Saturday night in the aftermath of a 4-3 loss to the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome  "But maybe it's my turn to deliver something, to follow him around a little and wait until he gets in a bad situation. Simple."

First up, for Kassian, is a Monday hearing with the NHL's department of player safety to answer for ragdolling Tkachuk in a game that will go down as an instant classic in the Battle of Alberta annals.

At issue: Kassian's raging reaction to a blind-side body check from Tkachuk when he was already battling for the puck with defenceman Mark Giordano.

"If you're going to hit like that, you have to answer the bell every once in a while," Kassian said. "He's clearly trying to target me, which I like. I'm standing here and I love that stuff."

The dude does not abide

Kassian loves the rough stuff but hates that Tkachuk won't abide by the tough-guy code and drop the gloves when asked.

"He's just a young punk who just has to figure out that aspect," Kassian said. "It's sad because he's a pretty good player. But he's a [expletive], to be honest. Straight up. That's the definition of it. He wouldn't fight me two years ago.

"Said I was a fourth liner. Now I have 13 goals. What's the excuse now?"

Tkachuk said he has no interest in sitting for five minutes in the penalty box and leaving his team at an obvious disadvantage.

"I'm not," he said. "That's a tough tradeoff there.

"If he doesn't want to get hit, then stay off the tracks. I caught him three times there, so you'd think he would learn after the first one. If he wants to react like that, we'll take the power play, we'll take the game winner and we'll move on to first place."

WATCH | Lindholm, Flames squeeze past Oilers in Battle of Alberta: 

Game Wrap: Lindholm, Flames squeeze past Oilers in Battle of Alberta

4 years ago
Duration 1:48
Elias Lindholm scored a pair of goals to help the Calgary Flames just past the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in the Battle of Alberta

Much to the delight of Calgary fans, that's exactly what transpired. Kassian received a double-minor, and Elias Lindholm potted the game-winner with the man advantage 39 seconds into the third period.

With the victory, the Flames (25-17-5) climb into first place in the Pacific Division.

"I'd like to see him get a number," Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said of Kassian. "You're in a tight game, it's 3-3, get a number and deal with it later. Deal with winning the game."

He paused before adding: "I wish we could have killed the penalty for him."

Fresh off signing a new contract, Flames sophomore defenceman Rasmus Andersson unloaded on the post-game radio show with FAN 960 host Patrick Steinberg.

"They've got a lot of pretenders out there," Andersson said. "It's really nice to beat those guys. That's one of the biggest coward moves I've ever seen from Kassian. We make guys like that pay. That was a coward move … that's the kind of player he is."

Tkachuk ramps it up

Oiler fans would no doubt say Tkachuk was the coward on Saturday night and that he deserved a disciplinary hearing for the predatory nature of his hits.

Regardless, Tkachuk is hardly losing sleep over the derision from the north. He takes pride in drawing a league-leading 146 minor penalties since breaking into the league in 2016/17.

Much like Corey Perry in his prime, Tkachuk wants to be adored by the fans of his team and despised in 30 other cities across North America.

"I think his game is best when he's playing on that edge — not unlike a lot of other top guys in the league who are really competitive," said Flames captain Mark Giordano. "When you're competitive and you want to win so badly, you get into those battles on the ice.

"One of his best qualities ever since he came into the league is that he's able to ramp it up in big games."

Expect more of the same come Jan. 29 in Edmonton.