Capitals' Peter Laviolette says ‘you can’t change’ Tom Wilson's style of play

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Matt Weyrich
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Laviolette says ‘you can’t change’ Tom Wilson's style of play originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Capitals forward Tom Wilson returned to the ice Saturday after serving a seven-game suspension for boarding Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo.

While the illegality of the hit was disputed by several of Wilson’s teammates, he missed seven game nonetheless before strapping back up and recording an assist in Washington’s 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers.

Head coach Peter Laviolette understood that the NHL wanted to protect its players. Carlo hasn’t played since the hit to his head and he’s considered “week-to-week” with the injury. Yet the Capitals’ coach also saw the play as a result of Wilson’s style of play — unfortunate but incidental contact.

“It was an awkward play and a player got injured and nobody likes to see that happen but Tom, he’s just a big, physical guy and I think he’s mindful,” Laviolette said Monday on 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies. “Obviously, the suspension hurts and you learn from things and what’s gonna be accepted and what’s not gonna be accepted."

Laviolette added: “He’s always learning. He’s always been a guy that’s played really physical and any team in the league would love to have players like that, like Tom who’s big and strong and can score goals and he can hit and he can fight and everything he does is powerful.”

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The suspension was Wilson’s fifth of his career but only his first since the start of the 2018-19 season. As he returns to the ice, Laviolette doesn’t want to see him change his approach to the game.

“What you do is you try to learn from it and see where adjustments can be made so that it doesn’t get near that line of what would be acceptable and unacceptable,” Laviolette said. “You can’t change his game. He’s got to be a power forward, he’s got to play the same teams, he’s got to play fast, he’s got to drive nets, he’s got to drive bodies and that’s what he does. So I think you’re constantly working on, ‘What’s the line?’ and trying not to cross that line.”

For more interviews, tune into the Sports Junkies on NBC Sports Washington, weekdays from 6-10 a.m.