WASHINGTON, D.C. — A raw rookie is set to make his NHL debut for the Washington Capitals in Friday’s Game 5 against the New York Rangers.
Tom Wilson, the Caps 2012 first round draft pick, is getting the call to replace Martin Erat (suspected left wrist/arm injury) in this series that is tied 2-2 after Washington won the first two and the Rangers responded with the next two.
“It’s definitely pretty … it’s a surprise. I just came in here and wasn’t really expecting it. I mean, I didn’t want to expect too much and yesterday I kind of found out a little bit and then today has just been a whirlwind so far and it’s definitely a big day,” said Wilson, who was then asked what fans should expect from him. “I think just playing my role. I talked to (Caps head coach Adam) Oates a little bit and he wants me finishing my checks and stuff and keeping it simple, pucks out, pucks in and just getting the first one out of the way.”
Wilson will be on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks.
Wilson’s Plymouth Whalers were ousted from the Ontario Hockey League’s conference final, then the physical right-winger joined the Hershey Bears for three games in their Calder Cup playoff series with the Providence Bruins.
Shortly after the Bears were ousted, Wilson got word he and Joey Crabb had been recalled. Now Wilson is set to enter the fray in what has been a tight series, but Oates believes he’s ready and could provide a spark with his combination of grit and skill.
“You don’t want to overthink it or give him too much information. Just let him, you know, be enthusiastic and give us a little life,” said Oates. “Just relax and play and enjoy the moment. Obviously, he’s going to be pretty hyped up, so I don’t think he’s going to listen to anything you say anyways. You know what? He’ll be fine. Good for him to get this opportunity, and it’s fun to watch him with a smile on his face.
“He had a great year. A big, strong kid. He’s obviously – he’s got a big body for a kid his age, so you know what? He can fit in. It’s a rarity, but it happens, and we think it’ll go great.”
Nobody is expecting Wilson to carry the Caps to victory, but he could provide an element that helps get them back on track.
“It’s not an easy thing. But he’s a good kid. He loves being here,” said Caps RW Troy Brouwer. “We’ve embraced him really well. We’re trying to make this as smooth and as easy as possible for him. I remember my first game, it was a regular-season game but it was still tough. Just the magnitude of the game, to be thrown into it …I don’t know if he’s going to sustain a lot of minutes but hopefully he goes out there and enjoys himself because that’s what it’s about.”
Oates also said Erat was feeling better today, so the injury may not be as serious as originally thought.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are looking to carry over the momentum they gained by winning two games on home ice at Madison Square Garden.
“In playoff hockey, you’ve got to be physical,” said Rangers winger Rick Nash, who has been limited to one assist in the series. “It’s definitely one of the reasons for our success the past two games.”
It will be interesting to see which team’s sniper can have a greater impact. Nobody would have guessed that Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (one goal, one assist but nothing the past two games) and Nash (one assist) would combine for only three points through four games.
Figure one of them plays a starring role tonight.
Rangers D Marc Staal was back on the ice after missing Game 4, but he won’t be back tonight. Nor does Staal have any idea when he might return.
This is literally a day-to-day process as he continues to work at coming back from the eye injury he sustained on Mar. 5.
Staal played 17:17 in Game 3 in his first game back, then took the morning skate on Wednesday before he was a surprise catch.
“I won’t go into detail about what happened. I just wasn’t able to play. I will wake up tomorrow and then go at it again,” said Staal. “It’s tough. You’re excited to get into that one and then you have to sit and watch the next, it’s certainly not easy.”
Here’s how we expect the two teams to start, though it’s important to not that the Rangers lines are totally in flux, since Brian Boyle has been used on the wing of late. Last game Brad Richards and Derek Stepan both have been double-shifted at times and Derek Dorsett isn’t going to be used at C, so take it for what it’s worth…I’m going to list Dorsett as the C for now for sake of convenience.
Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Alex Ovechkin
Eric Fehr-Mike Ribeiro-Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera-Mathieu Perrault-Joel Ward
Matt Hendricks-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner-Mike Green
John Erskine-John Carlson
Jack Hillen-Steve Oleksy
Braden Holtby (Michal Neuvirth)
NEW YORK RANGERS
Carl Hagelin-Derek Stepan-Ryan Callahan
Ryane Clowe-Brad Richards-Rick Nash
Mats Zuccarello-Derick Brassard-Brian Boyle
Taylor Pyatt-Derek Dorsett-Arron Asham
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
John Moore-Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto-Steve Eminger
Henrik Lundqvist (Martin Biron)