Zack Kassian is best known these days as the chief lead character for the Edmonton Oilers in their latest on-ice war with the Calgary Flames.
Fresh off a two-game suspension for pummelling Calgary forward Matthew Tkachuk, all eyes are on No. 44 for Edmonton in the renewed Battle of Alberta. Kassian and the Oilers contend the Flames Wednesday at Rogers Place in Edmonton and after that again Saturday at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
NHL director of player safety George Parros has alerted both sides to behave.
In the larger photo, however, Kassian is the author of a different sort of story-- one of profiting from last opportunities and moving on from past mistakes.
"There's a peace to my life now where it utilized to be very rocky," stated Kassian, who turned 29 this past Friday. "Now, I'm at peace with a lot of things far from the rink which I believe, in basic, assists me a lot on the ice."
Patrolling ideal wing on the very first line with Connor McDavid and James Neal, Kassian is on-pace for a profession season with 13 goals and 28 points in 44 video games.
The Windsor, Ont. native is anticipated to sign an agreement extension with the Oilers before the NHL's trade deadline on Feb. 24.
"It's been an excellent year so far," the six-foot-three, 211-pounder said with a gap-toothed grin. "I feel like I've shown I can play anywhere in the lineup, which is an excellent property to have."
Back in 2015, Kassian seemed on the brink of falling out of the NHL entirely due to carnage in his individual life.
"He's our body and soul in this group here," star centre Leon Draisaitl informed reporters when the Oilers arrived back in Edmonton. "Everyone enjoys him.
"Everyone on this group actually appreciates what he does on a nighttime basis."
Defenceman Darnell Nurse echoed those sentiments.
"He's a body and soul guy," Nurse stated. "He's a guy that brings a lot of life to this room. He's important not just on the ice, but off the ice with the energy he brings. And he's a guy who always plays between the lines, too. He's a hard gamer, not a filthy gamer.
"He's a person who plays hard for the guys next to him. We're really lucky to have him."
While media types have actually branded Wednesday's video game as Kassian's opportunity to precise vengeance, the male himself comprehends what's at stake.
"Look at our division," he said prior to the all-star break. "Look at the Pacific and how tight it is."
Indeed. The Vancouver Canucks reside atop the Pacific Division with 58 points. The Oilers, Flames, Arizona Coyotes and Las Vegas Golden Knights are all one point back with 57.
All five teams have sat in top place at some time this season.
"You have a bad week of hockey and you're out of the playoffs," Kassian stated. "We desire to capitalize and get as numerous points as possible."
Montreal Canadiens. Three days before the season opener, he broke his nose and left foot when his lorry hit a tree at 6:30 a.m. Police charged a 20-year-old female with impaired driving. Kassian confessed to being heavily intoxicated in the passenger seat after a night of partying.
Suspended by the Canadiens-- and ultimately traded to Edmonton for goalie Ben Scriven-- Kassian entered a treatment centre in Southern California.
He exited with a decision to take things a day at a time and resurrect his hockey career.
"For me, I think now that I'm a fun person," stated Kassian, a first-round (13th general) choice of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2009 NHL entry draft. "I even joke around about my past a little bit-- about how I came through adversity and a lot of the dumb stuff I did.
"That stuff, I really had to tidy up."
These days, Kassian is much beloved in the Oilers locker-room. His teammates roared to the big man's defence after his double minor for ragdolling Tkachuk on Jan. 11 arguably expense Edmonton two points. Elias Lindholm potted the game-winner with the male benefit and Calgary won 4-3.