Tom Wilson has been suspended two preseason games by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his big hit on St. Louis’ Robert Thomas on Friday night.
In handing out the punishment, the NHL noted the lateness of the hit—it occurred more than a full second after Thomas had lost control of the puck—and the predatory nature of Wilson tracking down the Blues’ rookie before delivering the blow in front of the visitors’ bench.
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Wilson, a rugged 23-year-old winger who has a reputation for playing on the edge, has been on the NHL's radar for a while now. He’s been fined twice previously, but this marks the first time he’s been suspended.
Wilson must sit out Saturday’s exhibition game against the Hurricanes and Monday’s contest against the Devils. He’s eligible to return Friday at Carolina.
Earlier Saturday, Barry Trotz said he was “a little surprised” that the NHL had requested a hearing with Wilson, adding, “Whatever decision that they have we’ll deal with it. They do a good job.”
For Wilson, losing two preseason games amounts to a cheap lesson. But it also serves to underscore that he’s now squarely in the league’s crosshairs and will be considered a repeat offender should the Department of Player Safety examine a future play involving him.
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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
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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
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. ”
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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.
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