NASHVILLE — A little more than eight minutes into the first period Sunday night, rookie defenseman Patrick Wey delivered what seemed to be an ordinary hit on Predators tough guy Rich Clune near the Washington bench. But that interaction resulted in Wey leaving the game with an apparent head injury from his first NHL fight.
“He’s okay. We removed him from the game for precautionary reasons,” Coach Adam Oates said. Asked if the team had determined whether Wey suffered a concussion Oates replied that they “didn’t do any tests yet”.
Sunday’s contest, an eventual 4-3 shootout loss for the Capitals, marked Wey’s ninth career NHL game. The 23-year-old defenseman, playing in his first professional season, fought just once before in his career according to HockeyFights.com and that bout came back in the 2008-09 season when Wey played in the USHL.
But he and Clune, 26, were tangled up following the hit and as they moved away from the benches, Nashville’s enforcer dropped the gloves. Clune, who has fought 32 times in 113 NHL games (16 this year, according to HockeyFights.com), hurled punches toward Wey at rapid speed.
The rookie blue-liner was able to defend himself at first but then Clune started connecting and delivered a punch to the left side of Wey’s jaw that knocked him to the ice. Wey was examined by head athletic trainer Greg Smith as he lay on the ice and made it to the dressing room under his own power but didn’t return to the contest.
That Clune, an experienced fighter, took on an inexperienced player who has barely any track record with fisticuffs didn’t sit well with some of the Capitals even though they acknowledged Wey wasn’t ambushed into fighting.
“They had a little tangle before the fight and they were talking to each other a bit and Weysie seemed to be a willing combatant,” Troy Brouwer said. “But at the same point guys who are known to be fighters, they have to have enough respect to pick their spots to know when guys are able to fight fighters.”
Said Oates: “I’m surprised the guy would do that but they had contact, they kind of looked each other in the eye and Patrick also didn’t back down. Got to give him credit for that.”
During a television timeout, Tom Wilson stood a foot away from Clune and expressed his displeasure. They jawed at each other, separated only by the red line and under the supervision of the game’s two linesemen, but other than a few declined invitations to scrap nothing came from it.
“I think Weysie knew what he was getting himself into. I don’t think it was much of an instigator in the fight, but at the end of the day I just wanted him to defend his actions,” said Wilson, who has come to the defense of a teammate multiple times this season and fought Clune back on Dec. 7 when the teams met for the first time this year.
“He didn’t feel that he had to fight and he said last time we played he had to instigate a fight in order to get me to fight and put [the Capitals] on the power play, but I hadn’t knocked anyone out earlier in the game, so it’s a bit of a different circumstance,” Wilson said. “He plays the game hard. I play the game hard and I respect that, but at the end of the day he declines. I’m not going to put our team down on a penalty kill because we’re trying to make the playoffs and that’s not the important thing here. Just so that Weysie knows and the guys know I had his back. That’s all that matters.”