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Following his second suspension, Tom Wilson acknowledges that he must adapt

Following his second suspension, Tom Wilson acknowledges that he must adapt

After Tom Wilson was suspended two preseason games late last month, the rugged Capitals winger vowed to not change his hard-hitting game.

After he was suspended four regular season games less than two weeks later, Wilson has changed his tune a bit.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” he said Wednesday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “But I respect their decision. Four games and a week-plus seems like a lot but it’s their ruling. That’s the standard that’s going to be [enforced] throughout the whole year.”

“I think they are trying to send me a message here,” he added, “and I’ve got to listen to it and adapt.”


In his telephone hearing with the department of player safety on Tuesday afternoon, Wilson said that he told the new director of player safety George Parros that he attempted to mitigate the blow at the last second. He also said that Blues forward Sammy Blais, who was checked for a concussion but later returned to the game, should have been more aware of his surroundings.

“They were saying he was not eligible to be hit—his numbers are showing the whole way,” Wilson said. “I watched the replay hundreds of times. He looks right at me. He knows I’m coming and he puts himself in a vulnerable spot. At that last second, I’m trying to do everything I can to get out of the way. You can see me change my body position at the last tenth of a second to try and avoid the contact.”

But he didn’t avoid the contact. And with the hit-from-behind on Blais coming so soon after he was suspended two preseason games for a late hit, Parros apparently decided it was time to come down hard on Wilson.

“I think that was a big factor in it,” Wilson said. “If you look at it, I’ve played four seasons at this level, at this speed, and I've made tons of hard hits, big hits, clean hits. That’s a lot of decision making where I made really good decisions in a tenth of a second to make sure it’s a safe, clean body check. Since there was that discipline a week before, maybe he’s questioning my decision making. …If he’s questioning my decision making that doesn’t sit well. I’ve played four seasons, making a lot of good decisions at a very high [speed]. I can get around the ice quick. I get on top of guys very quick. That’s part of my game, I’m a good skater and I’m a strong guy that can finish hard checks. You know what? The game is moving away from those big, big hits. You got to be really careful. I accept that and I’ll adapt with the game, like anyone would.”


So, yeah, Wilson doesn’t agree with the league’s decision. But he accepts it. And, most important, he recognizes the need to make changes to his mindset and approach.

“I have to be better at making the decision on when to hit and when not to, maybe pass up on hits,” he said. “My intent is never to hurt a guy. Anyone that knows me off the ice knows I’m an honest player and I care for the game, I care for players and I’m trying to play the game the honest, hard way that I know. I've got to adapt with the game and adapt with the message they're sending me. I’ve got to be a little more careful because obviously they’re being a little more severe with the games and discipline that they are handing out.”

Coach Barry Trotz said he’s discussed the suspensions with Wilson and anticipates that he’ll adjust.

“He studies his craft,” Trotz said. “He looks at almost all his hits. He’s not out there to try to hurt; he’s trying to play his style of game without going over the line. He’s played a certain way all his life, and the last four or five years he hasn’t really had any suspensions. And now he’s had two. Maybe the line’s moved, just like the faceoffs. The line has moved a little bit and he’ll adjust.”

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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

Lars Eller did not practice on Monday, and coach Barry Trotz shuffled his injury-depleted defense corps.

Here’s how everyone lined up:


Burakovsky – Backstrom – Oshie

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Vrana

Connolly – Graovac – Wilson

Smith-Pelly – Beagle – Chiasson



Orpik – Bowey

Djoos – Carlson

Orlov – Chorney





RELATED: Caps destroyed by Flyers in lopsided road loss

Some notes, quotes and observations from KCI:

  • Trotz said Eller showed up sick and was sent home to recover and avoid spreading whatever he’s got. Trotz also isn’t sure whether the veteran center will be able to suit up against Toronto on Tuesday. “I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t answer that right now. We’ll see where his energy level is.”


  • The coaching staff shuffled the D-pairs with speedy Toronto coming to town. But Trotz also cautioned not to read too much into the tandems, since they’re likely to change throughout Tuesday’s game. Trotz even hinted that a final decision on which six D-men will suit up had not yet been made. “They’re going to be shuffled from now until we get people back,” Trotz said, referring to the injured Matt Niskanen, who is week-to-week with an upper body injury. “There are pairs for practice. There are pairs for parts of games. It’ll be a little bit situational.”


  • If defenseman Taylor Chorney does get back into the lineup, he knows that he needs to make a positive impression after sitting out the last three games as a healthy scratch. “I’ve been through this quite a bit over the last couple of years, but at the same time you probably want to make a little bit of a statement,” he acknowledged. “So for me, if I do get the opportunity to play, it would be a big game.”  


  • Speaking of the Leafs, they’re off to a 4-1-0 start with Auston Matthews (5 goals, including two OT winners) leading the way. Overall, Toronto is averaging a league-leading 5.2 goals per game. As you might imagine, Trotz had a lot of praise for last season’s first round opponent in general and Matthews specifically. “If he was playing 20 years ago, we’d be saying he’s Mario Lemieux-like,” Trotz said. “He’s six-foot-[three]. He skates great. He’s got unbelievable hands. And a hockey I.Q. and he’s strong on the puck.”  


  • As Washington attempts to turn the page from Saturday’s 8-2 clunker in Philly, Trotz said one area he’d like to see shored up is the number of shots the Caps have been allowing. Through six games, they’re yielding 34.5 shots on goal per game (tied for ninth most). Last year, they allowed 27.8 (fourth best). “We’re not as structured defensively,” Trotz said. “We haven’t put as big an emphasis this year as we did last year. We’ve put a little more emphasis on trying to replace some of the goals that we lost. But right now we have to get a little more balance. …We have to get that back into balance; we practiced some of that today.”


  • As you may remember, Madison Bowey’s father, Will, jumped on the first flight out of British Columbia that he could find in the hopes of catching his son’s NHL debut Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center. As it turned out, though, he experienced a couple of travel delays and didn’t make it. Dad will, however, be in attendance Tuesday night.


MORE CAPS: Nicklas Backstrom shines among NHL's top stars

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Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom named one of NHL's 3 stars for standout week

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Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom named one of NHL's 3 stars for standout week

Nicklas Backstrom has been the Capitals’ best player so far this season, according to coach Barry Trotz. And he was recognized for his play on Monday when the NHL named him third star of the week.

No one had more points over the past week than the Caps’ star center, who racked up three goals and six assists in four games.

Trotz praised Backstrom for his point production — and his play on the other side of the puck.   

“He’s been really good,” Trotz said. “Nick has been all business. He’s playing very well. He’s been our best player, no question, with balance in his game. Nick’s balance in his game is really good—on my soap box again—and that’s what makes him one of the best two-way centermen in the National Hockey League. ”

RELATED: Andre Burakovsky's first NHL fight

Last season, Backstrom didn’t get his third goal until the 16th game (en route to a 23-goal campaign). In six games this season, the 29-year-old has three goals and eight helpers.

First star of the week was Winnipeg winger Nikolaj Ehlers (five goals, two assists), while Toronto center Auston Matthews (four goals, including two OT winners) received second star honors.

On Tuesday at Capital One Arena, it’ll be second star versus third star as Matthews and the Leafs take on on Backstrom’s Caps.

MORE CAPS: How the Caps flopped in Philly