Any news involving Tom Wilson and the possibility of the NHL rescinding the match penalty he received on Wednesday night against the Ottawa Senators will be delayed until Friday, a league source confirmed on Thursday.
When a match penalty is assessed, vice president and director of officiating Stephen Walkom reviews the play internally with NHL Hockey Operations, along with the referees who worked the game. NHL Hockey Ops is headed by former NHL defensemen Stephane Quintal and Chris Pronger. The referees for Wednesday’s game were Wes McCauley, who gave Wilson the match penalty for intent to injure Senators forward Curtis Lazar, and Jon McIsaac.
If the group decides the match penalty was unwarranted, the automatic suspension will be lifted, allowing Wilson to face the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday night, and the penalty will be removed from Wilson's record.
“I really respect the league and whatever decision they make we always go with it,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “But they’re pretty sharp. … Hitting is still part of the game and I think that’s got to be part of what Willy does.”
Wilson told reporters he was “tracking” the puck and made a conscious effort to keep his arms in and not target Lazar’s head on the play.
“We talk about sawing arms off,” Trotz said. “You take his ice away and that’s basically what (Wilson) did. … The league is going to always err on player safety and I think that’s the right thing to do. I think Wes (McCauley) is one of the best in the league and player safety comes first.”
Trotz said he trusts the judgment of referees and believes the NHL will make the right decision with Wilson, who has led the Capitals in penalty minutes in each of his first three NHL seasons but has never been suspended.
“I don’t want (Wilson) not to go near anybody,” Trotz said. “There’s still physicality in our game. It’s funny, I was listening to TSN Radio and even the Ottawa fans, it was probably 70 percent that said it’s not even a penalty, and usually you don’t get that from an opposition.”
Several of Wilson’s teammates said they believe Wilson is being targeted by the NHL.
“With concussions, obviously, the dirty stuff definitely needs to get out of the game,” T.J. Oshie said. “But I don’t think hitting should be taken out of the game. I think ‘Whip’ kind of has a target on his back right now.
“It’s unfortunate for him. He’s a young guy, he plays hard and for him to have a target on his back it’s unfortunate. When it’s not a penalty you don’t want to see a guy leave for five minutes and have his team have to kill it off.”
Caps center Michael Latta, who had a goal and an assist in Wednesday night’s win, said he thought the Wilson’s hit on Lazar was “harmless,” while Caps captain Alex Ovechkin said he wants Wilson to continue playing the physical brand of hockey that led the Caps to make him a first-round draft pick (16th overall) in 2012.
“His game is to be physical, be tough and I’m never going to tell him to stop doing that because he gives us our toughness,” Ovechkin said. “He makes us more relaxed on our team and more dangerous to (opposing) teams.”