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BLOG: Kassian primed for playoff push

"The games mean everything and this is the best time to be a hockey player, especially in a market like this," forward Zack Kassian said

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - The games will be coming thick and fast for the Oilers when the calendar turns over to March.

Forward Zack Kassian, who served the final game of his seven-game suspension on Wedneday, is excited to make his return to the lineup when a 36-day stretch to the end of the season that includes 18 games begins Saturday at Rogers Place for the Oilers against the Winnipeg Jets.

"We should all be excited," Kassian, speaking following an optional Oilers skate on Thursday, said. "We put ourselves in a position to play meaningful hockey in March and we've added some good pieces. I know I'm very excited. I was excited watching them from home and the city should be very excited as well.

"You want to play meaningful hockey. I think you work hard all summer and you train hard for March, April, May and June. That's where we're at right now. The games mean everything and this is the best time to be a hockey player, especially in a market like this."

Kassian felt the craze of Oil Country in the 2016-17 postseason, scoring three times in 13 playoff games and embodying the passion of the entire city in his efforts.

But the right-winger is first setting his sights on chipping in with contributions that are in line with the numbers he posted earlier this campaign that've helped the Windsor, Ontario product reach a new career-high 14 goals and 30 points in 54 games.

Video: RAW | Zack Kassian 02.27.20

"It's important for me to have the impact I did at the beginning of the season," Kassian said. "I think those two weeks I worked really hard, but I obviously got to reset the mind. The final stretch here are important games, and I need to be good for us."

Kassian spent his time away from the team preparing as close as he could to the real thing, making sure he'd be up to speed and ready to jump right back into the lineup when his suspension had ran its course.

"We sat down with the coaching staff and we made sure we could simulate a game as much as possible to make sure we keep my conditioning up," Kassian said. "So that shouldn't be a factor in any shape or form."

Where Kassian will slot back in is a decision solely in the hands of head Coach Dave Tippett, and the forward will fill any spot the coaching staff sees necessary after finding a role earlier on the Oilers top line with Connor McDavid. 

"You give everyone the choice and they're going to want to go back with Connor," Kassian laughed. "I'm going to play wherever the coach thinks I can help the team be successful. I don't read too much into that. I'm here to win and I know everyone else in that room feels the same way. Whatever line combinations he finds that work, we're going to stick with them and roll with them.

"We want to be a good team, a deep team, and doesn't matter where I play. I know everyone else feels the same way."

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