The last time the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights played was December 4, 2018. Ryan Reaves and Tom Wilson continued their long rivalry and jawed with each other several times before Reaves was ejected for nailing Wilson with a blindside hit.
After the game, Reaves made matters worse by taunting a concussed Wilson.
“I thought it was shoulder to shoulder and I didn’t think it was that late,” Reaves said. “He was just looking at his pass and ran into a lion in the jungle.”
Two days later, Reaves autographed photos of the hit for a Las Vegas memorabilia company that had the inscription He ran into a lion in the jungle.
Saturday, the Golden Knights and Capitals will play for the first time since the controversial hit and autographed photos.
“If he feels that something needs to be done, I’m more than willing to answer the bell,” Reaves said to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s David Schoen after the Vegas Golden Knights practiced at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Friday. “I think everybody knows that. And if he doesn’t think anything needs to be done and he wants to play hockey, we can play hockey.”
Reaves added that while he never thinks he and Wilson will be cool on the ice, he’s heard good things about him as a person away from the ice.
“I’m sure we’re never going to be friends on the ice,” Reaves added. “I’m sure it’s not going to start (Saturday), but I think it is a little bit different with me and him than with me and Kane. To be honest, I feel like I might like Tom Wilson off the ice. I don’t know him. I’ve heard some good things about him. It’s funny in hockey, you have rivalries on the ice where you look like you want to kill each other, and it’s true. On the ice, I absolutely do, for both those guys. But I’ve had rivalries in the (American Hockey League) before where I’ve fought a guy and gone out for beers with him after. That’s just how sports is sometimes.”
On Saturday, after the Capitals’ morning skate, Wilson was asked if he’d get caught up in Reaves’ post-whistle shenanigans or look for retribution.
“I think that’s exactly what he wants, right?” Wilson said. “There are two sides to everything. I have to worry about my own game and what I think is best for our team to 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 to tonight – just like every other player on the ice is going to have – so you just have to worry about your own game, 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.”
When Wilson was last asked about the Reaves’ hit and autographed photos, the Capitals forward was less diplomatic.
“I saw it,” Wilson said in mid-December 2018. “There’s no point to me paying any attention to that kind of stuff. It is what it is.”
Wilson didn’t offer an opinion on Reaves’s actions saying instead, “he can do whatever he wants.” The Caps forward did emphasize that Reaves was responsible for whatever those actions were. “It’s up to him, he controls that stuff. Everyone carries themselves differently. It’s up to him.”
When asked about the hit itself, Wilson offered a non-answer answer.
“It sucks, but it’s hockey, it’s good,” Wilson said. “Injuries happen.”
Todd Reirden left open the possibility that fireworks could occur but added that Wilson is an important player on the Capitals that the team needs to be victorious.
“Tom and I have had a lot of discussions over the last year plus dealing with these types of things,” 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 and he’s a valuable asset that we want to have on the ice to help us. Obviously they’re competitive guys. Hockey’s a competitive game and things happen. We’ll see how tonight’s game goes.”
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