Zack “The Project” Kassian doesn’t quite know what to make of the label applied by John Tortorella — a moniker that has stuck to the mercurial winger like gum to a shoe.

And he doesn’t know what to make of probably being in the Edmonton Oilers’ crosshairs Friday for his errant, off-balance, one-handed preseason stick swing that broke the jaw of Sam Gagner and resulted in Kassian being suspended for eight games.

The incident was labelled “a disturbing play by a disturbing player” by Dallas Eakins, but Kassian is more disturbed about his inconsistent game that’s plagued by positioning and puck decisions in his own zone. It’s keeping him from being called a player instead of project.

“I never really did too well with projects at school,” Kassian said following a seven-player practice Wednesday.

“In science, I could never get [the volcano] to go and explode. John is right. There are things I need to work on, and I’ve been doing that the last couple of games. It leads to offence, getting on the forecheck and being physical.

“In the defensive zone, there have been a couple of mistakes, and you can’t have turnovers like that and any coach wouldn’t be happy with you. You’ve got to make the simple plays.”

During a season-high five-game winning streak, Kassian was scratched at Carolina, played just 5:05 against Nashville and 13:02 against Carolina here on Monday in a third-line role. He has just five goals in 27 games, hasn’t scored in eight and had just two shots in that span. On Friday, he might have to play the role of a fighter as he faces the Oilers for the first time since the Gagner incident.

“Who knows? I’m happy [Steve] MacIntyre is not in the lineup, that’s for sure,” Kassian said of the Oilers’ demoted enforcer of whom he said: “I don’t even think he can skate.”

“I’m not too worried about somebody coming after me — I have no problems standing up for myself. I’m going to play the game hard,” he said. “If they want to get some kind of revenge, the door is open. Go ahead.”

The analytical door has swung both ways on the Gagner incident. On one hand, Kassian had to be in better control of his body and his stick, and on the other, he didn’t target the Oilers’ centre because it was more about being beaten on a play than trying to beat up the opposition in that Sept. 21 game.