GLENDALE, Ariz. — Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson will not play against the Arizona Coyotes Thursday night after he sustained a concussion in Tuesday night’s game in Vegas.
Though he was at Gila River Arena with his teammates on Thursday, Wilson didn’t participate in the morning skate, and Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said he’s “day to day” and will continue on this road trip with the team. On a blindside hit from Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves Tuesday night, Wilson’s helmet popped off and his head hit the ice as he dropped to the ground. Wilson had to be helped to the locker room, and he didn’t return to the game.
Washington plays in Columbus on Saturday night before returning home. The Capitals have lost their past two games, and between Wilson’s suspension and a slew of injuries, they haven’t had their full lineup available all season.
After Wilson was suspended for the first 16 games of the season, his return propelled the Capitals to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings. Before he got hurt in Vegas, Wilson had scored eight goals with eight assists in his first 10 games back in the lineup, and Washington was 8-2-0 in that span. The Capitals are already without T.J. Oshie, who also has a concussion and will miss his 10th straight game Thursday, so Wilson’s injury means the team is down its two top right wings.
Andre Burakovsky will play his off side and replace Wilson on the top line with center Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.
Reirden used Burakovsky in that role after Wilson was ejected in the second period of Friday’s game against New Jersey and again after he went down on Tuesday night. His production so far has been uninspiring with four goals and three assists through 27 games, but Reirden believes his speed will be a good complement to Backstrom and Ovechkin. This isn’t the first time Reirden has shown some belief in Burakovsky, playing him some on the penalty kill and, in the games he’s played well, deploying him in late-game situations, which is a show of defensive trust.
“I think I’ve been playing good,” Burakovsky said. “I’m doing all of the right things, if you really watch the game closely. I’m not drifting away from the game as much as I did maybe two years ago. Even if I haven’t produced as many points as people expect or I expect from myself, I still think my game has been way better overall than in the past couple of years, so obviously that’s a good sign. I think if you look at my play in the [defensive] zone and the way I’m handling the puck, I think it’s definitely an improvement. I’m not worrying about putting up points here. As long as we’re doing good as a team, to be honest, I don’t care."
Said Reirden: “We’ve spent a little bit more time this year on understanding how to properly evaluate his game and making sure that he’s putting his focus on the proper things and not wasting energy getting frustrated or disappointed when the numbers aren’t coming. It’s more about his overall game and how he can add in particular to that line with Backstrom and Ovechkin in that situation with the speed that he has.”