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Tom Wilson Breaks Down First Game Back For Capitals: ‘Felt The Love’

Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson reacts to his season debut and shares his thoughts on how it went, how he’s feeling and more.



WASHINGTON — On his very first shift of his season debut on Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was hit in the left leg, the one he'd just spent months rehabilitating following ACL surgery. He held his breath for a moment, and then let out a sigh of relief as he saw that his knee had held up. 

That play alone calmed him down; he was back in business, and ready to give what he could in his first game back in front of 18,000 fans who were counting down the days that he and Nicklas Backstrom, who also made his return from hip resurfacing surgery, would draw back in.

"You know, after an injury, it's a little bit different. You're expecting your body to show up but you never really know. I tried to put in all the work I could and it held up, we got through it. It felt better as the game went on. The guys battled for Nicky and I to get it done and Kuemps played really well and it's nice to get the first one out of the way but it was a really cool experience," Wilson said. "You can't ever take it for granted, playing in the NHL. The fans, the roar when Nick and I came out, it's a pretty special feeling and just a thank you to everyone for all their support and from the city and all the fans. We definitely felt it."

Wilson didn't waste any time getting back to his game, lacing 'em up and playing on the second line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dylan Strome. The 28-year-old helped generate pressure in the offensive zone and of course, brought eh physicality. He led the team with six hits, including a huge one on Liam Foudy that led to Mathieu Olivier challenging him to a fight.

"I just said, 'Hey, give me a game to get my body back into it here,''" Wilson laughed. "So you know, those are the great part of hockey and why you play the game and the passions and the competitive nature. It's fun going up against those guys, but I had to politefully decine at that point in the game."

READ MORE ON WHN: Washington Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom Emotional After First Game Back From Hip Resurfacing Surgery

Overall, Wilson played 14:10 minutes (17 shifts) and also had one shot while also getting 1:13 minutes of time on the power play. He said that he started to feel more comfortable and get back in the swing of things as the game went on. And in the end, it was enough for him and Washington to leave with a 1-0 victory over Columbus.

"I think everyone that comes back from injury will tell you there's really nothing you can do to emulate game speed in the NHL. You just kind of got to take it shift-by-shift, and as the game went on, I started to feel better and more comfortable making plays," Wilson said. "You know, big kudos to my linemates and pretty much everyone in the room today to pick Nick and I up and we felt the love. It's fun to get the win."

The Ontario native also said it was easier coming into Sunday's game with the team playing well of late, and when it comes to finding chemistry, he expects things to flow more with more time and reps.

"Nick and I try to come back in and bring what we can… we just gotta do our best and play as well as we can and chip in where we can and bring energy, bring some fresh mentality kind of halfway through the year here and just let guys keep doing their thing because everyone's been great."

In the end, Wilson was just happy to be back, and he said that his return after nearly eight months of rehabilitation and sitting out reminded him of why he loves the game so much.

“There’s nothing better than the day-to-day of playing in the NHL. It’s a huge privilege, it’s a huge honor. You can’t take it for granted," Wilson said. "Just coming back out here, it’s why you play: to come out on home ice, play for the fans, play for the city. Just glad to get the win and keep it rolling.”

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