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Washington Capitals' Tom Wilson set to return from seven-game suspension. What can we expect from him?

Mike Brehm, Jace Evans and Jimmy Hascup, USA TODAY
·3 min read
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Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson went more than two years without a suspension, then was hit for a seven-game ban this month.

The hit was on Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo, who spent a night in the hospital after being crushed into the boards.

The league said it issued the suspension, the fifth of Wilson's career and his second longest, because of the "totality of the circumstances" surrounding the hit.

The Capitals disagreed with the ruling but chose not to appeal because Wilson likely would have served the entire suspension by the time the process was completed.

“There’s nobody that knows the details of body checking and what the league is looking for in evaluating on body checking more than Tom," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "He’s very detailed in it.”

Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson has been suspended five times in his career.
Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson has been suspended five times in his career.

Wilson is eligible to return Saturday night against the New York Rangers and vows to adjust.

“I can’t be missing seven games," he told reporters Friday. "I can’t be missing one game. I got to be in the lineup.”

What can we expect from him? USA TODAY Sports hockey staffers weigh in:

Mike Brehm: I take Wilson at his word because from his 20-game suspension (reduced to 14) in 2018 until March, he had avoided the attention of NHL Player Safety. He was physical without being illegal. You could question whether he delivers hits that he doesn't need to deliver, but his physical play opens things up when he's on the ice. He'll also need to behave because the clock has reset and any future suspension would give him repeat offender status and a higher per-game cost.

Jimmy Hascup: For this season? Sure. For the rest of his career? I have my doubts based on his history. He has transformed from more of a one-dimensional bruising forward during the start to his career to one of the premier power forwards in the game. But until I see him let up on some hits and play smarter, I can’t sit here and say he is going to be without any controversy moving forward. It’s weird because I do think he is sincere when he says he needs to avoid this type of thing … but that doesn’t seem to change his mindset during the heat of the moment on the ice.

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Jace Evans: I don't anticipate much change from Wilson, both to his and the Capitals' detriment. He's in his eighth full season in the NHL, turns 27 later this month and has played more than 600 games, including playoffs. This is just the type of player he is. If he had actually learned his lesson in any meaningful way, it would have come after he picked up that 20-game suspension in 2018. But he's continued to ride the line and it finally bit him once again when he went high and hard on Carlo. Wilson is talented and plays a key role for the Capitals thanks to his versatility, but it seems he's going to miss more games for the team in the future because to this point, any "change" in the way he plays has just been lip service.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Capitals' Tom Wilson returning from suspension; how will he behave?