- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Forward Tom Wilson rejoined the Capitals on Tuesday and could play Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, coach Barry Trotz said.

Wilson appeared in two games with the Hershey Bears while working his way back from a fractured bone in his left ankle. The 20-year-old, who was one of three rookies in the NHL to play in all 82 games last season, said he feels good and is ready to play when called upon.

“At this point, the ankle feels pretty good. It’s the legs and the lungs,” Wilson said. “It’s one thing to go out there and do down-and-backs. It’s another thing to be battling and playing a full game, and mentally you’re in it and it’s a lot more physically draining than practice. So you can only get those reps through games.”

Trotz watched film of Wilson’s shifts at Hershey and had multiple conversations with Bears coach Troy Mann before recalling the young forward Tuesday. Trotz said he would like to observe Wilson during the team’s morning skate on Wednesday before making a final decision on his availability for that night’s game.

“There’s a good chance he’ll be in [Wednesday],” Trotz said. “We’ll see where he is in the game. He could be fine and we just go forward, or he may be laboring in terms of overall conditioning. There’s a bigger jump from the American League to the NHL than people really realize.

“It might be a game and then all the sudden, he might be going back to Hershey. I’m going to do the right thing for Tom Wilson’s career. What we do in the next two weeks is really minor. It’s going to be what’s best for his career.”

Wilson finished with three goals, seven assists and 151 penalty minutes as a rookie last season, rarely shying away from a confrontation. Though he is most well-known for that hard-nosed disposition, Wilson also has established himself as a future star in Trotz’s eyes.

Trotz said Tuesday that when he first took the job, he envisioned Wilson playing alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the team’s top line.

“My vision for [Wilson] is to be a top-six forward with a bite,” Trotz said. “Tom Wilson, I think for him to be an effective player, is going to have to have some bite in his game.”

First, however, Wilson must get back on the ice.

There is an element of conditioning when returning from any injury, but also a mental aspect to navigate. Wilson said his time in Hershey helped build confidence and quickly clear that mental hurdle.

“I got rid of that pretty quick,” he said. “Maybe after the first shift it was kind of the game sets in and you forget about it. And from then on in, I’m not really thinking about it much anymore. It’s just thinking about the game.”

NOTES: In a corresponding move, Washington sent forward Chris Brown, 23, to Hershey. … Trotz said Brooks Laich, who was left home during the team’s three-game road trip in Canada because of an upper-body injury, will not play Wednesday against Detroit.

• Tom Schad can be reached at tschad@washingtontimes.com.

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