Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson will appeal his 20-game suspension from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, according to Coach Todd Reirden. Wilson received the supplemental discipline on Wednesday afternoon for an illegal check to the head of Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the teams' preseason finale Sunday.

Wilson has 48 hours from the time the suspension was handed down to provide written notice of an appeal to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, but it’s highly unlikely Bettman will overturn the decision. Wilson could then appeal to a neutral arbitrator, and in both cases, Wilson would remain suspended during the appeal process (unless the full term of his suspension has run). The appeal would go through the NHL Players' Association, not the Capitals.

Based on the $5.17 million average annual value of Wilson’s contract, he will forfeit $1.26 million. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Wilson’s appeal will likely focus on the surprising length of the suspension. The Department of Player Safety described Wilson’s fourth suspension in his past 105 games, including preseason and playoffs, as “an unprecedented frequency of suspensions in the history of the Department of Player Safety,” which led to the harsh sentence.

Washington officials privately suspected he’d be suspended roughly 10 games, and the 20-game ban is the most severe discipline the Department of Player Safety has handed down since Raffi Torres was suspended 41 games in 2015 for an illegal hit to an opponent’s head. That was the fifth suspension of Torres’s career, and his fourth suspension had been for 25 games three years earlier.

Wilson typically plays on the Capitals' top line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and captain Alex Ovechkin. He’s coming off a career season with 14 goals and 21 assists, which earned him a new six-year, $31 million deal, and his physical play has been a strong complement for skilled linemates. Right wing Brett Connolly skated in Wilson’s place in Wednesday’s season opener, which Washington won, 7-0.

Eller to play

Capitals center Lars Eller was bloodied after his first career fight on Wednesday night against Boston’s Brad Marchand, but Reirden said he’ll be in the lineup against Pittsburgh on Thursday. After Eller scored Washington’s seventh goal of the game, Marchand said he Eller’s “celebration was unnecessary.”

“He took an angle in front of our bench and celebrated in a 7-0 game,” Marchand said. “So I just let him know."

Eller initially declined Marchand’s invitation to fight, but Marchand started throwing punches anyway. He received an instigator minor and a 10-minute misconduct. After the game, the Capitals implied that Marchand, who has a history with the Department of Player Safety, should receive supplemental discipline, especially since Wilson had been hit with a 20-game ban just hours earlier. But Marchand wasn’t called for a hearing with the department on Thursday and will be in the lineup for the Bruins against the Buffalo Sabres.

“I just think that’s some of the stuff we’re trying to remove from the game,” Reirden said. “That’s out of our hands, but it’s important to make sure that you draw attention to it when they want to establish standards that involve players who have past history. It’s a good one to look at.”

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