Capitals forward Tom Wilson will have a hearing with the NHL’s department of player safety Tuesday, Washington General Manager Brian MacLellan told The Washington Post on Monday. In Sunday’s preseason finale in St. Louis, Wilson was assessed a major penalty and ejected for boarding Blues forward Sam Blais. After Wilson went four seasons without a hearing with the department of player safety, this is now his second one in less than two weeks.
Earlier in the preseason, Wilson was suspended two preseason games for interference on St. Louis forward Robert Thomas, a hit the department of player safety said was late and forceful. Because that suspension is already on Wilson’s record, he could receive harsher discipline for this most recent hit because he would now be considered a repeat offender. MacLellan said the Capitals intend to have an opening night roster of 23 players, so if Wilson is suspended, the team would have an extra forward available on the roster who would be eligible to play in case someone were to get injured in one of the first few games.
Sunday’s game in St. Louis wasn’t televised in any markets, so the department of player safety doesn’t have multiple angles to analyze the hit like it normally would with cameras that accompany a broadcast of the game. But there were cameras in Scottrade Center and the league can ask for that in-arena feed as well as the coaches’ film for any additional angles and replays of the hit. Some infractions require more detailed information while others may be more obviously illegal without zoomed in, slow-motion close-ups. The department of player safety would not suspend a player if it was not comfortable with a limited video angle, but it would also not let a player off from a suspension because there’s just one or two angles.
On Sunday, St. Louis Coach Mike Yeo said Wilson’s boarding on Blais was “a predatory hit with a guy that apparently didn’t learn his lesson from the first suspension.” Blais was evaluated for a concussion, but he returned to the game.
“Maybe coming down a little bit harder on him will make him think a little bit more about it,” Yeo said. “It’s tough, going after vulnerable people.”
Wilson is expected to play somewhere in the middle-six forwards of Washington’s lineup, and he is also a top penalty-killing forward. After his first suspension, Wilson said he respected the league’s decision, but he also wouldn’t change his physical style of play.
“Every time you make a body check, you’re making a split-second decision,” Wilson said then. “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.”
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