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Tom Wilson was not happy about fighting Jake McCabe and was not sure why he had to

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Tom Wilson was not happy about fighting Jake McCabe and was not sure why he had to

Tom Wilson is never afraid to drop the gloves, but he wasn’t happy about having to do so on Tuesday.

In the second period against the Buffalo Sabres, Wilson unleashed a big hit on forward Sam Reinhart. Defenseman Jake McCabe took exception, but Wilson was not really sure why.

RELATED: BARRY TROTZ ISN'T WORRIED ABOUT BEING OUT-SHOT. HERE'S WHY

“The hit kind of came as the play developed and I finished my check,” Wilson told reporters after the game. “I wasn’t even thinking about fighting there, I just wanted to kind of play with energy and try to get the guys going that way.”

You can watch the hit here.

Reinhart has the puck and Wilson hits him with a shoulder check. The point of contact is Reinhart’s shoulder. It is by every definition a clean check. Yet, Wilson was called to task for it.

“I don’t know why I have to fight in that instance,” Wilson said. “To me, that’s textbook. Everything I’ve been told about instigating, that’s what that is. It’s frustrating from that standpoint.”

MORE CAPITALS: BARRY TROTZ HAS THE LATEST INJURY UPDATES

The fight resulted only in matching majors for fighting as McCabe was not issued a penalty of instigating.

This is a big season for Wilson as he needs to show he can provide the team more than just his fists. We saw how much of a difference maker he can be in the playoffs when he played a phenomenal series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The third line of Wilson, Lars Eller and Chandler Stephenson has also been one of the team's best over the past few games. Losing Wilson for five minutes takes that line out of its rhythm which hurts the team offensively.

It is no secret that the Caps want more offensive production from Wilson this season. It will be hard for him to do that if he has to drop the gloves and spend five minutes in the penalty box after every big, legal hit to an opponent.

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

A Capitals team that struggles after lengthy breaks is now indeed struggling after its return from the bye week. Since returning on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, the Caps have lost three straight games including two at home with only two points to show for their efforts.

Heading into the bye, Washington looked like one of the top teams in the NHL with 14 wins in 19 games. Now, they have taken a step back and are working at returning to the level they were playing just a week ago.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oh, and to make matters worse, the Caps do not play again until Thursday and then are off for the All-Star break.

It's Jan. 22 and Washington has only two more games this month. Even if they do figure things out on Thursday against the Florida Panthers, they will have to figure it out all over again when they return from the All-Star break on Jan. 31 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

So where do the Caps rank after their recent slide and how far could they fall if they do not right the ship? Find out here in this week's NHL Power Rankings!

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.

RELATED: HERE'S WHY THE CAPS LOST TO PHILADELPHIA

Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.

Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.

"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."

Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.

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But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.

If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.