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Tom Wilson knows the game is changing and his playing style must change with it

Tom Wilson knows the game is changing and his playing style must change with it

Tom Wilson has come a long way from the Adam Oates days of fourth-line minutes and a limited role. He enjoyed a career season in 2017-18 on the top line and now is signed for six more deals with a $31 million contract.

With that contract, however, comes new responsibilities and a new role.

First, it means that he must produce. Second, and just as important, he has to stay on the ice.

“I want to be on the ice and not in the box or not in the stands,” Wilson said on a conference call with reporters Monday. “It's different. I'm growing into a different role. You don't necessarily make as many big hits if you're playing 19, 20 minutes so I'm going to have lots of stuff on my plate to keep me focused.”

Everyone knows the type of physical punishing style in which Wilson plays, including the Department of Player Safety  (DoPS).

After two preseason incidents netted Wilson two suspensions last year, the second of which cost him the first four games of the regular season, Wilson went to great lengths to adapt to the DoPS’s standards. He and general manager Brian MacLellan met with the head of the department, George Parros and Wilson managed to avoid another suspension for the rest of the regular season.

The playoffs, however, were a different story.

Wilson was suspended three games for a hit to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese in the second round and he is well aware that he will find himself in the Department’s crosshairs next season as a repeat offender.

The game is changing, even from the time Wilson first entered the league.. He knows that and knows he has to adapt to the times.

“I think it would be stubborn on my part not to admit that the game is changing,” he said. “There is definitely an eye on that part, the physical part of the game in the NHL right now. I want to be contributing. I want to be a part of the success of the group. If I'm not going to adapt and change with the times, I'm not going to be able to do that.”

To that end, Wilson told reporters he intends to talk to various people around the league to further educate himself and avoid another suspension. The best prevention for those type of hits, however, will be Wilson's increased role.

A team does not hand out a $31 million contract to a bottom-six player whose only skill is throwing his body around the ice with reckless abandon. The Caps paid Wilson like a top-six player, that comes with the expectation that he will play like one.

“I'm going to be worried about playing both ends of the ice, playing next to [Alex Ovechkin] and [Evgeny Kuznetsov] and playing with high-skilled players and making plays for them,” Wilson said.

That’s an attitude he will have to commit to throughout the season. Wilson’s style of play would have fit right in back in the more physical days of the NHL, but times are changing. Wilson needs to change with it.

“That physical part of my game is always going to be there,” Wilson said. “That's the nature of who I am, that's how I play the game. I'm not going to let anyone take that away from me, but I have to be smart about it.”

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How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

Everyone remembers Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-clinching overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018. That goal now overshadows another series-clinching goal Kuznetsov had in 2015. In Game 7 against the New York Islanders, Kuznetsov scored what would prove to be the winning goal to break up a 1-1 tie. Clearly he knows how to get ready for a big game. His secret? Television.

Kuznetsov appeared on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Greatest Hits show on Monday to talk about his 2015 performance and the topic of the locker room came up. Both teams went into that game knowing their season was on the line and Kuznetsov was asked if the feeling was any different in the locker room before the game, a question he did not know exactly how to answer.

"I'm never in the locker room," Kuznetsov said. "I'm always by the TV watching TV shows."

Yes, when Kuznetsov arrives at the arena, he apparently likes to watch TV before the game and said he is not in the locker room until only about 30 minutes before warmups. He enjoys watching soccer, but also likes a good movie.

"It's usually soccer games," Kuznetsov said. "If it's not the soccer game, it's whatever the movie's going."

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He went on to say he was thankful for the team subscribing to whatever channel it was that he watches movies on.

If this seems odd to you, there is a method to the madness.

"Usually it's movie because that way I'm not thinking about hockey," Kuznetsov said. "I like to be loose before games."

Hey, if that's what he was doing before Game 7 in 2015 and before Game 6 in 2018, it's hard to argue against it.

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Capitals Greatest Hits: How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-winning goal

Capitals Greatest Hits: How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-winning goal

In need of Memorial Day plans? Look no further as NBC Sports Washington presents the fifth and final edition of Capitals Greatest Hits on Monday, May 25, at 7 p.m. 

For this holiday edition of Capitals Greatest Hits, NBC Sports Washington will reair Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference First Round playoff series between the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders. 

As a special treat, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who delivered the series-winning goal for the Caps, will make a special appearance on the broadcast to talk about his Game 7 heroics from the win-or-go-home showdown.

What better way to cap off a holiday weekend than by reliving some Caps playoff glory with The Birdman himself?

How to Watch: Capitals’ Greatest Hits

Who: New York Islanders @ Washington Capitals — April 27, 2015

When: May 25 at 7 p.m.

Where: NBC Sports Washington (channel finder), stream on the NBC Sports MyTeams app

Guest: Washington Capitals star Evgeny Kuznetsov

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Broadcast Schedule

6:00 PM Capitals Greatest Hits Capitals vs Thrashers from March 21, 2008 (R)

7:00 PM Capitals Greatest Hits Capitals vs Islanders from April 27, 2015 (P)

8:00 PM 2018 Stanley Cup Championship Films: Washington Capitals (P)

10:00 PM #HockeyAtHome: The Great One & The Great Eight (R)

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