When Tom Wilson returned to full contact for the first time in eight days, it was as if nothing happened. He was back at full speed and an active participant yet again, all smiles as he returned to the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Now, he’s expected to return to full-game action against the Carolina Hurricanes Friday. Based on the lines at morning skate, he’ll start out on the second line with Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Wilson suffered what appeared to be a concussion after taking a blindside hit from Ryan Reaves in Washington’s 5-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 4. The injury has held him out for the last three games, compromising what has been a hot start for the 22-year-old so far this year.
“It sucks,” Wilson said of the injury. “Timing is never good for those things, but especially when the team’s playing well and you’re feeling good out there. It sucks, but it’s hockey. Injuries happen.”
In just 11 games so far, Wilson’s racked up eight goals and 14 points, and is scoring at 1.27 points-per-game pace. He’s also had four multi-point performances so far, and has been held off the scoreboard in just two games.
“He’s a really important player for us,” Niskanen said. “Not only with how he plays, but I think he’s got a great attitude and infectious attitude in the dressing room that gets guys excited to play... [he] does a lot of good things on that top line, a lot of pressure, physical play, net drive... he’s an important player.”
While Reaves was ejected following the hit, he received no further disciplinary action for the play. However, he soon after received backlash for autographing pictures of the play that injured Wilson, who’s been notorious for being on the other side of such hits. While Wilson admitted to seeing the pictures, he didn’t go too deep into it or the hit itself.
“There’s really no point in me talking about it... it is what it is. It’s hockey, a physical sport. Stuff happens,” Wilson said.
Ultimately, as Wilson looks to move forward and leave the past behind him, he explained that some good came out of it; over the last couple of weeks, the Capitals have a number of injuries, including big-name players like Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie. However, they’ve been able to compensate for the holes in the lineup, winning 10 of their last 12 games and three straight.
“It’s how you find out about your team and your teammates,” Wilson said. “It happened to us a few times last year and made us a lot stronger. They’ve done a great job. There’s nothing better than when you’re out watching games and your team’s out there playing great and playing together and guys stepping up. It’s great to see.”
Here’s Washington’s projected line-up @ Carolina, courtesy of Isabelle Khurshudyan. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.
Caps expected lineup:— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) December 14, 2018
Burakovsky and Stephenson are out. Djoos had surgery yesterday and is out indefinitely.