The Washington Capitals will be without one of their key forwards again tonight, but not for the usual reason. After missing 16 games earlier this season to suspension and being given a match penalty in another, Tom Wilson will instead miss tonight’s game against the Arizona Coyotes with a concussion. Wilson suffered the injury in Tuesday’s game against the Golden Knights when he was hit hard by Ryan Reaves, and is “day-to-day” according to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post, who spoke to head coach Todd Reirden earlier today.
When taking into account Wilson’s physical, sometimes reckless style, he has been extraordinarily healthy throughout his NHL career. He has played all 82 games in three of his five NHL seasons, and only missed that mark last year due to the four-game suspension he had to start the year. That durability has been a calling card of his, and allowed the Capitals to rely on him nightly to establish a physical presence for their team. It likely helped earn him a spot next to some of the team’s best players, and also factored into his big contract extension.
Unfortunately, this injury for Wilson comes during the most productive stretch of his career. Since returning from suspension after a neutral arbitrator reduced it to 14 games—Wilson had already served 16—the power forward recorded eight goals and 14 points in 11 games for the Capitals. His success from the 2017-18 playoffs had seemed to continue, and opponents no longer just had to keep their heads up when he was on the ice. Now, a concussion puts some uncertainty in his season as his style could very well lead to more injuries down the road if the team is not careful. Reaves was obviously targeting Wilson as a physical challenge, forcefully checking him multiple times in the game and confronting him on the ice. That kind of treatment isn’t going to stop after the reputation that Wilson has built for himself.
Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes have their own concussed forward in Jordan Staal, who will miss the team’s next game according to team broadcaster Mike Maniscalco. The Hurricanes have called up Saku Maenalanen to replace Staal, who suffered the injury last night against the San Jose Sharks. This will be Maenalanen’s NHL debut should he get into the lineup against the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow night.
This is just the latest in what must be a frustrating season for Staal so far, as the veteran forward has been stymied on offense as well. With just 11 points in 27 games, the 30-year old hasn’t been able to help the Hurricanes get to that next level and start competing in the Metropolitan Division. With him out, the team will have to look elsewhere for help down the middle, and assign another center to the tough defensive matchups.