Tom Wilson, Ryan Reaves downplay their on-ice rivalry

J.J. Regan

ARLINGTON, Va. -- On Dec. 4, 2018, Ryan Reaves was ejected for a hit he delivered to Tom Wilson that knocked Wilson out of the game and out of the lineup with a concussion. That was the last matchup between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights that season meaning that fans had to wait until 2019 for the rematch. Surely this was a game that both Wilson and Reaves had circled in their calendars, just counting down the days until the next time they could face each other.

For those of you waiting for a heavy-weight bout to play out on the ice, it sounds like you are going to be disappointed.

"It wasn't, I don't think, that bad a hit," Tom Wilson said. "It was just kind of unfortunate."

"To be honest, I feel like I might like Tom Wilson off the ice," Reaves told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I don't know him. I've heard some good things about him."

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A war of word, this is not.

That lack of juice between the players extends to the coaches as well. Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant was asked about the Reaves hit on Friday after practice and he did not even remember what happened.

"I don't know if they think about it, I definitely don't think about it," he said. "We're playing to get two points and it's a team in the East and we're a team in the West."

You can file this as everyone playing nice for the media and saying what they are supposed to say, but even strategically, it doesn't make much sense for Wilson and Reaves to drop the gloves. 

Wilson is a second-line player and a valuable offensive weapon for the Caps. Reaves, meanwhile, is a fourth-line player whose job it is to agitate players like Wilson and get him off the ice.

Wilson said he was conscious of that dynamic heading into Saturday's contest.

"I think that's exactly what he wants," Wilson said. "There's two sides to everything. I have to understand what he wants and I have to worry about my own game what I think's best to help our team win. He can move, he's a good player. He's actually got pretty good skill for a big guy. That being said, he's going to have a focus coming into tonight just like every other player on the ice is going to have so you've just got to worry about your own game and control what I can control and from there hopefully we're playing a good group game and let him worry about what he wants to do tonight."

"Tom and I have a lot of discussions over the last year plus dealing with these types of things," Todd Reirden said. "There's no secret how valuable he is to our team and how our team can have success with him. He's used in all possible situations on our team. He's a valuable asset that we want to have on the ice to help us. Obviously they're competitive guys and hockey is a competitive game and things happen. We'll see how tonight's game goes."

But even if Wilson and Reaves decide to play nice, that doesn't mean there won't be any physical play on Saturday.

The Caps are a physical team that likes to play a physical game. They added players like Garnet Hathaway and Radko Gudas in the offseason to help the team be more physical up and down the lineup.

Gallant on Friday said that was just fine with him.

"When we're playing our best game, we've got some guys that play a heavy game and we've got some big defensemen, couple of forwards upfront. Not a whole lot different than those guys. You can look around the league and there's not many Tom Wilsons and there's not many Ryan Reaves, those type of players, big physical guys. When they play their hard game, it's tough to play against them and compete against them."

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Tom Wilson, Ryan Reaves downplay their on-ice rivalry originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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