Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson won’t face any supplemental discipline from the NHL Department of Player Safety after he was ejected from Friday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils for an illegal check to the head, a person familiar with the situation confirmed.
Wilson collided with forward Brett Seney in the second period, and though the hit was late and could have been considered interference, the contact was through the shoulder. The league rarely suspends for interference when there’s not substantial head contact.
Seney was not injured on the play, and Wilson will play in Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. Through nine games, he’s scored seven goals with six assists, playing on the top line as well as the power play and penalty kill.
“It’s pretty frustrating, to be honest,” Wilson said Saturday. “I’m out there, I’m feeling good about my game, I feel like I’ve made some really good adjustments, the team is playing well and then you get thrown out of a game. It sucks. Obviously I was pretty frustrated about it last night but it’s the reality and we deal with it today and move on. We can talk about it all day, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s all been resolved and we have a big game tomorrow.”
It’s been just nine games since Wilson returned from the fourth suspension of his career, and though the Capitals argued that Wilson’s reputation worked against him in the referees' assessment on the ice during Friday’s game, others derided Wilson for not avoiding an unnecessary hit altogether.
"I’m having a really tough time with this one because he isn’t even intending to make a hit,” Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said Friday. “It’s incidental contact, and he is following his defenseman down the wall. The player backs into him, he tries to get out of the way of the player, makes himself as small as possible, and there’s incidental contact. He’s not even attempting to make a hit, and we get a five-minute penalty that could’ve cost us the game. This guy is doing everything he can to try to play the right way, and this is how things are happening. It’s a tough situation. . . .
“I’m still trying to see how it’s a penalty. I think any other player, I don’t know if — it’s maybe an interference call. Maybe.”
The Department of Player Safety ultimately considered the match penalty on the ice sufficient, and because Wilson didn’t make contact with Seney’s head nor used force beyond his own momentum, the hit wasn’t deemed worthy of a suspension. According to the collective bargaining agreement, Wilson’s history isn’t factored into the department’s decision to suspend. It is only considered when determining discipline for a hit that warrants a suspension on its own.
But considering Wilson has vowed to stay out of the department’s crosshairs and his last suspension cost him the first 16 games of the season, Friday night was yet another reminder of the caution he now has to play with.
“That’s the reality of it,” he said. “Anytime I’m involved in contact it’s assumed that I’m skating away and that’s a match penalty. It sucks but that’s what it is. I just have to keep trying to play my game and produce and help the team win. As we saw, I have to be very, very careful about any type of contact.”
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