The Washington Capitals are just one game into the playoffs, but forward Tom Wilson might already be in trouble with the league. The NHL Department of Player Safety reviews all hits, and Wilson’s charging infraction on Columbus center Alexander Wennberg is in the process of being examined, according to a source.
Wennberg suffered an undisclosed “upper-body” injury on the play in the third period, and he didn’t return. The Blue Jackets beat the Capitals, 4-3, in overtime. Wilson has already been suspended twice this season, so he’s a repeat offender and could face harsher discipline as a result.
With Wilson in the box, Columbus’s power play scored to tie the game, 2-2, in the third period.
“I’m just trying to finish my check there,” Wilson said. “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.”
The league will closely look at whether the head was the main point of contact, and as such, if the head contact was avoidable, and there would need to be video angles to support that. 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 has also already announced that Toronto center Nazem Kadri is facing a hearing for a hit on Bruins forward Tommy Wingels on Thursday night.
Columbus forward Josh Anderson received a boarding major and a game misconduct for his hit on Washington defenseman Michal Kempny. Kempny didn’t return to the game after sustaining an upper-body injury, and while Capitals Coach Barry Trotz took issue with Anderson’s hit, which is also being reviewed by the Department of Player Safety, the early sense is that it won’t garner any further discipline.
“I’m going to let the league look at it,” Trotz said. “I thought there’s clearly [Kempny’s] numbers there [when Anderson hits him]. I’ll just put in the league’s hand, but we lost a player early in the game. You know, it was the right call on the ice. I know the league will look at it. I mean, [the NHL is] trying to get that out of the game.”
Wilson was suspended twice in the preseason, forcing him to sit out the first four games of the year. He scored 14 goals with 21 assists this season, playing mostly on a top line beside captain Alex Ovechkin, so if he were suspended for any playoff games, it would be a significant loss for Washington, already down a game in the series. 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. “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.”