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Are too many NHL teams whining about hitting?


Are too many NHL teams whining about hitting?

If it’s true NHL teams are complaining about Capitals right wing Tom Wilson being a dirty hitter – an assertion made in a story by Elliott Friedman last week – Wilson says no one from the Department of Player Safety has called him on the carpet for it.

But he is beginning to wonder if the NHL is setting a dangerous precedent by placing such an emphasis on hitting.

“I’m all for the league protecting players and taking hits to the head out of the game,” Wilson said over the weekend. “But I consider myself a clean hitter.  I mean, do they really want to take good, hard hits out of the game? I can’t imagine that’s something a guy like Chris Pronger wants to see, right?”

Pronger, a recent Hall of Fame inductee who carved a reputation as one of the league’s most physically intimidating defensemen, is the NHL’s Director of Player Safety. Wilson and Capitals coach Barry Trotz said they have not been contacted by Pronger or anyone else from the NHL about Wilson’s hits.

RELATED: Trotz says Burakovsky needs to 'clear his mind'

Wilson, who leads the Caps with 54 hits, pointed out he was twice voted as the best body checker in the OHL and is concerned he is being unfairly targeted by NHL referees. Trotz strongly defended his 6-foot-4, 215-pound right wing.

“If you watch, he never goes after anybody’s head,” Trotz said. “He tries to go right through their chest. He never tries to get his elbows up. But is he going to hit you? Yeah, he’s a big strong man and he’s going to hit you.

“I don’t think he hits dirty. I’m not going to throw any other players under the bus, but there’s a lot of guys that I’d say are cheap in some of their stuff. Tom plays tough and he plays hard and he doesn’t play cheap. To me when you’re big and strong like him and he goes through people and he hits hard, other teams don’t have that, so they tend to complain a little more.”

That’s what may have happened following the Caps’ Nov. 12 game against the Flyers, when Wilson accelerated into a check on defenseman Nick Schultz and was called for charging, a penalty he acknowledged was deserved.

Since then Wilson has racked up 19 minutes in penalties over the past four games, including his first fighting major against the Flames’ Brandon Bollig, and a 10-minute misconduct near the end of the Caps’ 7-3 rout of the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

But it was a two-minute roughing minor against Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel on Thursday night that frustrated Wilson most. Wilson said he was simply defending teammate Michael Latta, who was cross-checked by Roussel, by skating into the scrum and putting a bear hug on Roussel.

“The reason he got the penalty was really plain and simple,” said Trotz, who asked for an explanation from the referee.

“He said if Willy doesn’t go in there he’s not getting a penalty,” Trotz said. “My response was, ‘If you just call the first penalty to Roussel you stop all the cross-checking. He goes, ‘You’re right.’ But I wanted (Wilson) to understand why the referee called that on him when he really didn’t do anything, And that’s how they viewed it. Next time he knows that if he has to engage he can’t be an instigator as a third man in.”

Like Wilson, however, Trotz is concerned the NHL is moving in a direction in which every hit is scrutinized, not only by the league’s player safety department, but by the players themselves.

“There are some hits where it’s a clean body check and everybody (on the bench) is going ‘Hey, hey, hey,’” Trotz said. “It’s hockey. You’re going to get hit. Don’t cry and whine about it. You’re going to get hit in this game and if you don’t want any hits in the game let’s say, ‘Hey there’s no hits in the game and call a penalty any time there’s a hit, which is tending to be more of the trend now.

“Our sport is about body contact and it is about physicality and clean physicality and that’s the way Tom plays.

MORE CAPITALS: Galiev remains in the lineup for Monday's game

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

We all knew this was coming, right?

The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the 11th time in franchise history. Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once in their previous 10 series. This season gives them the opportunity to get over the second round and Pittsburgh hump once and for all.

Will this year be different? Will the Caps finally take down their arch nemesis? Will they finally advance to the conference final?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps-Penguins matchup in the Capitals Faceoff Podcast.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page

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Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

As the Capitals and Penguins prepare to open their second-round series, significant injury news came out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Head coach Mike Sullivan informed the media that both Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin would not play in Game 1 due to injuries.

The fact that Hagelin would not be traveling with the team suggests that he will miss Game 2 as well, but that has not been confirmed. That also means that Malkin is at least a possibility for Game 2.

Malkin did not play in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers after getting injured in a collision with Jakub Voracek in Game 5. Hagelin was injured in Game 6 on a big hit from Claude Giroux.

So when the series against Washington begins, Pittsburgh will be playing without two-thirds of its second line.

Malkin made a real push for the Hart Trophy this season with 42 goals and 98 points. He was a major factor in last season's Cup run with 28 points in 26 games and was gearing up for another big postseason with five points in his first five games.

But don't celebrate too much, Caps fans. It is not as if either loss will be crippling to Pittsburgh's offense.

Despite not having Malkin for the entire Game 6 and losing Hagelin midway through the second period, the Penguins still managed to put up eight goals on the Flyers in the series-clinching win.

Still, with scoring depth being such a strength for Pittsburgh, the Capitals need to take advantage. The Penguins will be without one of the best players in the NHL and that makes Game 1 crucial. Washington has gone down 0-2 in each of their past two playoff series including last year against Pittsburgh. They lost that series in seven games. They need to have a better start this year and with no Malkin or Hagelin for Game 1, this may be a must-win for the Caps.

Riley Sheahan and Dominik Simon skated with Phil Kessel on the second line at practice on Wednesday and it is a good bet that is how the second line will remain for Game 1. That way, Pittsburgh can keep its third line of Conor Sheary, Derick Brassard and Bryan Rust line together which has been very effective.