The Senators will be armed with their own nuclear deterrent for this round of the Battle of Ontario.
As the Senators prepare to close out a five-game homestand Saturday at Scotiabank Place against the Toronto Maple Leafs, newly-acquired winger Matt “The Kassassin” Kassian is preparing to make his debut in the provincial punchup.
Twenty-four days ago in enemy territory at the Air Canada Centre, Senators GM Bryan Murray decided he’d seen enough after David Dziurzynski was knocked out by Toronto’s Frazer McLaren. Days later, he acquired Kassian.
While Dziurzynski suffered a concussion and has returned to the minors, the Senators have served notice that Toronto’s Colton Orr and McLaren will have to answer to rugged winger Chris Neil or Kassian if they try anything silly.
Kassian, choosing his words carefully after a short skate at the Bell Sensplex on Good Friday, knows games like this are why Murray gave Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher a sixth-round pick in 2014.
“You have a big, physical team coming in and I’m here to help play against big, physical teams,” Kassian told the Sun. “Like I said, you can’t put yourself in a position to lose a hockey game by taking a stupid penalty or doing something completely unnecessary.
“And, if there are situations that arise over the course of a game — just like in any game — you’re there to help out and take care of it. You’re there to support, help protect and stick up for your teammates. That doesn’t change game to game or team to team.
“Do they have more guys who are capable of being in a position on the ice where you’re going to have to do that? Yeah, maybe they do. That’s their identity as a team, to be a big, physical team to play against. I want to be an element of our team that makes us big, strong and tough to play against.”
Kassian has dropped the gloves once in the seven games he’s been here and that was last Saturday when he beat up B.J. Crombeen of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Kassian doesn’t go looking for trouble, but he doesn’t back down, either.
He doesn’t want Orr, McLaren or anybody else taking liberties against his teammates. Kassian is aware he’s not alone on that front with guys like Zack Smith and Neil as willing participants if there’s a need to drop the gloves.
“It’s the type of thing where you want to be prepared to do whatever it takes to help your team win games,” said Kassian. “That means be prepared to dump the puck in, take a hit and be in a fight if you have to be. It all depends on the game.”
Kassian hasn’t fought Orr, but does have a history with McLaren. According to dropyourgloves.com, the duo danced three times in the WHL in Sept. 2005 when McLaren was with Portland and Kassian was in Kamloops.
McLaren didn’t say anything that would light a fire under Ottawa.
“You don’t want to let emotions get the best of you. I know it will be a good physical game, but the bottom line is we need the two points and we’re trying to catch playoff spots and finish as high as we can in the standings,” said McLaren.
“There’s going to be a good atmosphere. They’re doing extremely well, they’ve developed a hard-working mentality and pride themselves in out-working teams. It’s similar to us, not so much with the injuries, but it should be a close game.”
Kassian said he has a good idea what the atmosphere will be like even though he’s never had a first-hand look.
“I was a kid who grew up in Edmonton and it was always the Battle of Alberta, so I would equate it to being about the same as that,” said Kassian. “The feelings, even as a kid, when you’re watching that happen, (you realize how) exciting, fun and intense those games were. I have no doubt that will apply (Saturday).”
Kassian didn’t like the Leafs growing up as a kid, but noted he can’t stand anybody not wearing a Senators sweater these days.
“They’re the opponent and I dislike all our opponents, so it’s not like I hold a special place in my heart (in his dislike) for (them),” he said.
Kassian is ready for battle.
Category: Ice Hockey