Tom Wilson doesn’t intend to change the way he plays, but the rugged Capitals winger says he'll be more cognizant of not being late on future hits.
Saturday, Wilson was suspended two preseason games by the NHL for a big hit on Blues’ prospect Robert Thomas that the league considered to be more than a second late.
Monday, Wilson spoke to reporters for the first time since the ban was announced.
“Every time you make a body check, you’re making a split-second decision,” Wilson said. “I take pride in the physical nature of my game. I take pride in my body checks. This is my fifth season, and I’ve made a lot of body checks — very clean, hard hits. So I trust myself. Maybe it was a second late or whatever, but I’m going to learn from it and I’m going to continue to play my game, my hard-natured hockey.”
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As a result of the suspension, Wilson will miss Wednesday’s exhibition game against New Jersey and Friday’s contest at Carolina.
More important than the missed time, though, is the fact that he’ll be considered a repeat offender if and when the NHL examines a future play involving him that it deems questionable. The suspension is Wilson’s first, though he’s been fined twice previously.
“I’m not going to change too much about my game,” he said. “I’m going to continue to do my thing, try and play hard within the rules.”
The 23-year-old added: “I take pride in the clean, physical nature of my game. That goes on my record now and whether it comes up down the road or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s my first one and you never like that to happen. I’ll learn from it.”
Coach Barry Trotz said he and his staff were surprised by the suspension but said that he does not feel the need to speak to Wilson about it. Trotz added that Wilson often studies which hits the NHL considers borderline and which hits the league considers clean.
“I think he understands,” Trotz said. “We were all a little surprised he got a couple of games, but we’ll accept it. He’s got to adjust. It’s no different than a centerman adjusting to the new faceoff rules or [Alex Ovechkin] adjusting on the slash rule. They are smart players and they will adjust. Tom is a really smart man and a good pro.”
That said, Trotz does not want the suspension to have a chilling effect on Wilson’s hard-hitting style of play. Over the past two seasons, Wilson has been credited with the fourth most hits in the league (492).
“You don’t want to take all of his game away from him,” he said. “He’s one of the best at getting on people and getting the big hits and turning pucks over and getting people nervous because he’s coming in. He doesn’t want to take that all out of his game. He just wants to understand his parameters and what the league is calling and looking for. But he’s got a smaller window” now.