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Examining the Wilson hit according to the NHL rulebook

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Examining the Wilson hit according to the NHL rulebook

As the Caps carried a 2-0 lead late into the third penalty, they looked well on their way to another victory until Tom Wilson made things interesting. A strong hit to the Ottawa Senators' Curtis Lazar changed things in a hurry as Wilson was given a match penalty and ejected from the game, giving the Senators some power play time to work with.

Wilson seems to be earning an unwelcome reputation as a dirty player around the league. Was his hit on Lazar really a dirty hit according to the rules?

According to Rule 21.1 of the official NHL rules, a match penalty will be called when a player "deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner." The referees therefore determined that Wilson was trying to deliberately injure Lazar on the play.

Let's look at what happens even before the hit. In the play, Ottawa is carrying the puck into the offensive zone. Wilson is skating back in order to back-check almost step for step with Lazar who is on Wilson's left. The direction Wilson is traveling is towards the opposite corner of the ice so from the right side to the left, it is not in the direction of Lazar until Lazar turns into Wilson's path. This disqualifies it as a charging penalty which specifically states that a violent hit be the result of "distance traveled." That is not the case here.

RELATED: Tom Wilson could face suspension after Caps victory over Ottawa

As Lazar is hit, the puck is located directly in front of him. In fact, it bounces off Lazar's stick just before Wilson makes contact. This makes Lazar the possessor of the puck and legal to check.

As Wilson makes contact with Lazar, Wilson's stick and feet remain on the ice and he does not extend his elbow. At first glance, the hit appears high, but part of that is height. Lazar is listed on the Senators website as 6 feet tall. Wilson is 6-foot-4. As Lazar leans to the puck and bends his knees, he lowers himself further, making the point of contact higher on the body. Lazar's head also whips around from right to left as he is hit making it appear like a hit to the head in real time, but from all replay angles it does not appear that Wilson hit Lazar's head at any point, nor did he hit him high. In fact, the back replay appears to show the principal point of contact to be Wilson's hip. This was not a high hit at all as WIlson's shoulder hits Lazar's shoulder and his hip hits Lazar's abdomen.

The hit clearly caught Lazar unaware, but that in itself does not make the hit illegal. Rule 43.1 makes reference to this saying it is illegal for "a check to be delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body." As we have already seen, however, Wilson is not coming at Lazar from behind, but from the side. The replay from the back angle shows the best view of this as Wilson's hip contacts Lazar in the side. Both numbers of Lazar's jersey are visible, meaning Wilson is not striking Lazar's back. In fact, Lazar's right knee actually appears to be behind Wilson's legs. This cannot be described as a hit from behind.

According to the rule book, the penalties that can result in a match penalty are hair pulling, head-butting, high-sticking, illegal check to the head, kicking a player, kneeing, punching and injuring an unsuspecting opponent, slashing, slew-footing, spearing, throwing stick or any object or wearing tape on hands in altercation. None of those apply in this case.

What we have then is a check from the side to the possessor of the puck that does not strike Lazar anywhere in the head or back. Lazar may not be expecting the hit, but that does not automatically mean that Wilson was intending to injure Lazar or that the hit was illegal.

As Wilson was assessed a match penalty, the rules state that "the player shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the Commissioner has ruled on the issue." The league must look this play over before Wilson will be allowed to play again. For those who think Wilson is being unfairly targeted by the referees, perhaps the pending ruling on this play will allow for a measure of vindication.

MORE CAPITALS: Wilson defends himself after controversial hit on Ottawa's Lazar

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

RELATED: TRADE DEADLINE STORY TIME WITH ALAN MAY

Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

MORE CAPITALS: IS IT TIME FOR GRUBAUER TO START IN PLACE OF HOLTBY?

For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Brett Connolly - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Chandler Stephenson - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Michal Kempny

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.