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Oilers Need to Make Decision on Zack Kassian… If He’s Healthy

The Edmonton Oilers will have to decide if and when to play Zack Kassian during the playoffs. He’s close to ready, but is he needed?

Zack Kassian skated with the Taxi Squad this week. In other words, he’s probably going to be ready to roll come Wednesday’s Game 1 matchup against the Winnipeg Jets and no doubt, he’ll want to play if given the opportunity. That doesn’t mean the Edmonton Oilers should shuffle things around to get him into the lineup.

Related: McDavid Didn’t Want to Sit Game 56 of Oilers Regular Season

Some will contend that playoff hockey is exactly the time the Oilers could use a player like Kassian. That may turn out to be true. He can be valuable when the physicality ratchets up. At the same time – barring a poor outing against Vancouver in the final game of the season — the Oilers have been one of the best teams in the NHL and it’s not an easy decision to slot Kassian in over some other, perhaps more deserving players.

It would be shocking if Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson and Josh Archibald don’t get time in the Oilers first game of their series against the Jets. That leaves Devin Shore, James Neal and Dominik Kahun as players the Oilers might substitute out. Kahun has started to play well alongside Connor McDavid, Shore is a penalty killing machine and Neal is starting to get hot at just the right time. It wouldn’t be an easy decision to replace any of them with a player who hasn’t seen the ice in a game since April 21st.

What About the Hitting?

It’s fair to argue that the Oilers might want to consider moving some offensive production out of the lineup to get a more physical player in. If Kassian can provide a big body that will make life difficult, he adds value to an Oilers roster who is game to play a physical style, but doesn’t have a deterrent and isn’t going to choose playing in the muck if they don’t have to.

Zack Kassian Gets 2 game Suspension
Zack Kassian Gets 2 game Suspension

At the same time, the series against Winnipeg shouldn’t be an overly physical one. There will be the sense that playoff hockey kicks things up a notch, but the Jets aren’t a heavy team as much as they are a skilled one. They don’t have the massive horses on defense to make things a nightmare for players like McDavid or Leon Draisaitl and perhaps the need for a player like Kassian to make room isn’t as great.

Next: Sam Bennett Facing Suspension for Boarding Tampa Bay’s Blake Coleman

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