Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson will not be suspended by the NHL for his check on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Alex Wennberg, according to a person familiar with the league’s disciplinary decision making.
The league’s Department of Player Safety could not definitively determine whether Wennberg’s head was the main point of contact for Wilson’s hit, given the available camera angles, the person said.
The hit came in the third period of Thursday night’s Game 1 of the opening-round playoff series. Wennberg left the game after the hit with what his team labeled as an upper-body injury. Wilson was assessed a minor penalty for charging, and the Capitals yielded a goal on the ensuing power play. After later regaining the lead, Washington ultimately lost in overtime, 4-3.
Wennberg is doubtful for Game 2, Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen said during a conference call with reporters Friday, and the GM took issue with the hit.
“The hit on Wennberg for me is a dangerous hit,” Kekalainen said.
“I’m just trying to finish my check there,” Wilson said after the game. “I’m obviously not trying to take a penalty. That cost us the game. That’s a critical moment. I’ve got to be better and maybe pass up on that hit. We’ve got the lead there, so maybe a big hit is not needed. It’s playoffs. Trying to finish your checks, and unfortunately I took a penalty. They capitalized on a couple of their opportunities there in the third period.”
Wennberg scored eight goals and recorded 27 assists for Columbus during the regular season. He started the comeback from a 2-0 deficit Thursday night when he scored the Blue Jackets’ first goal in the second period.
The Capitals catch a break with Wilson avoiding discipline. Because he was suspended twice in the preseason, he’s considered a repeat offender, so the punishment could’ve been harsh. He has been one of Washington’s most consistent forwards this season, scoring a career-high 14 goals with 21 assists in the regular season while playing mostly on the top line with captain Alex Ovechkin. Wilson also is one of the Capitals’ best penalty-killing forwards.
In October, Wilson and Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan met with Department of Player Safety head George Parros in Calgary to help Wilson understand how to avoid supplemental discipline.
“He does a good job of educating himself,” MacLellan said last week. “Me, him and Parros went over videos and just what they were looking at when he was being considered for suspensions and fines and other examples throughout the league. So, he’s spent a lot of time educating himself on what they’re looking at and how they look at it and what’s the certain things they look for. So, I give him a lot of credit for how he’s evolved with that.”
Also, the Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson will not be suspended for his hit on Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny in the first period. Anderson received a five-minute major for boarding, yielding a power play that Washington scored twice on, and also was ejected. Kempny appeared to suffer a head injury as he made contact with the glass, and the team announced that he’s “day-to-day” and will be reevaluated for an undisclosed upper-body injury Saturday. Game 2 is Sunday night at Capital One Arena.
The postseason is just a few days old, but it has already been an ugly one in terms of hits to the head. Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty was suspended one game Thursday for his hit on Vegas forward William Carrier in Wednesday night’s 1-0 Golden Knights victory. The Department of Player Safety also announced that Toronto center Nazem Kadri will have a hearing for a hit on Bruins forward Tommy Wingels on Thursday night.
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