Michal Kempny

Kempny returns to Capitals’ blue line for first time since March

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Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer doing the ceremonial puck drop honors won’t be the only thing Capitals fans can look forward to Friday night. Defenseman Michal Kempny will make his long-awaited return to the ice against the Rangers after tearing his hamstring in March.

Kempny, who was paired with Radko Gudas during Friday’s morning skate, was given a four-to-six month timeline after undergoing surgery right before the end of last season.

“Yeah, I’m playing tonight. It’s been a long time. I’m very excited,” Kempny said. “There was a lot of hard days, especially from the beginning of the rehab, small steps make me happy. I think it’s part of rehab and all the bad is behind me and I’m just focusing now [on] today’s game.”

Kempny knows he won’t be logging heavy minutes just yet and wants to focus on getting back into the normal routine of a regular player. How his ice time is managed will be something his head coach has to worry about.

“We have a range we’d like to have him in and we’ll see how the game goes,” said Todd Reirden. “Obviously he’s fresh, he’s skating really well, he’s in unbelievable condition, so now it’s just to see how it transfers into game action and how his wind is and his conditioning.”

Braden Holtby is back between the pipes are being given a one game “reset,” as Reirden put it. How he fares against the Rangers will either pause the goalie controversy talk with Ilya Samsonov for now or only add more fuel to the fire.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Capitals’ Kempny done for season with torn hamstring

If the Washington Capitals are going to go repeat as Stanley Cup champions they are going to have to do it without the services of defenseman Michal Kempny.

The team announced on Tuesday that Kempny will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn hamstring. He is looking at a four-to-six month recovery time. Kempny was injured in a March 20 game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Capitals acquired Kempny just before the 2017-18 NHL trade deadline for a third-round draft pick in a move that, at the time, probably slid under the radar. But he would quickly become a key part of their defense and appeared in all 24 playoff games, scoring two goals and adding three assists on the team’s run to a championship.

Prior to his injury this season he had taken on an even bigger role with the Capitals and had seen his ice-time increase to nearly 20 minutes per night while playing alongside John Carlson on the team’s top defense pair. The Capitals outscored teams by a 58-39 margin and controlled more than 52 percent of the shot attempts in more than 800 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time with that duo on the ice (data via Natural Stat Trick).

Kempny finishes his 2018-19 season with six goals and 19 assists in 71 games.

The Capitals addressed their blue line again at the trade deadline this year with a similar move, acquiring Nick Jensen from the Detroit Red Wings.

With Kempny now done for the season that acquisition takes on even more importance.

With two games remaining on their regular season schedule entering play on Tuesday, the Capitals are looking to secure what would be their fourth consecutive Metropolitan Division title.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny out indefinitely

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.

Coach Todd Reirden updated Kempny’s status Friday.

In an overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Kempny’s left leg bent awkwardly as he went down to the ice during tussle with Lightning forward Cedric Paquette in the second period. Kempny needed help from trainers to get to the locker room, and it looked like he was not putting any weight on his left leg.

With Kempny out and the Capitals up against the salary cap, 24-year-old Christian Djoos goes into the lineup alongside All-Star John Carlson. Djoos played on Washington’s third pairing in the playoffs last year on the way to winning the Stanley Cup.

Kempny has six goals and 19 assists in 71 games this season and has averaged 19:11 of ice time.

PHT Stanley Cup Tracker: Caviar in the Cup, Red Square visit, tour of Czech Republic

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The PHT Stanley Cup tracker will keep tabs on how the Washington Capitals spend their summer celebrating

Last time in the chronicles of the Cup, Alex Ovechkin had taken the mug home to Russia, where it visited the World Cup and where Ovechkin’s dad, Mikhail, got to lift Lord Stanley for the first time.

Of course, no trip to Russia would be complete without a trip to Red Square. Ovechkin, obviously aware of this, showed up to the iconic setting unprompted with the Cup.

It’s not certain what the most expensive thing that has been eaten out of the mug bit of the Stanley Cup — cereal, expensive booze, etc., has all made its way into the bowl — but we’ll assume filling it with caviar is right up there.

Michal Kempny, fresh of signing a new deal with the Capitals, got his chance to take Stanley home to the Czech Republic.

Kempny’s hometown of Hodonin was treated to a good time in the Cup’s first foray into the eastern portion of the country.

Of course, the Cup got to ride shotgun again as Kempny head to his hometown rink for a meetup with fans and a Q&A.

The Cup wasn’t done in the Czech Republic after Kempny’s time with it, however.

Hockey’s holy grail then headed to the nation’s capital of Prague to see Jakub Vrana.

Vrana was joined by Kempny and Andre Burakovsky during his day, and also had Washington Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky join in on the fun.

And, of course, mom and dad got their chance.

The Cup tour will take a much-needed break this week as it makes it’s way back to domestic soil. In two week’s time, Stanley will visit Minnesota and North Dakota, including time spent with Matt Niskanen and T.J. Oshie.

Lord Stanley’s itinerary can be found here.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kempny re-signs, Capitals keep top defensive duo intact

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Here’s a three-step formula to getting paid:

1. Play well.
2. Play well with the $64 million defenseman you just signed.
3. Profit.

That’s exactly what Michal Kempny did on Friday, putting pen-to-paper on a shiny new four-year, $10 million deal with the Washington Capitals. The average annual value on the deal will hit the Caps for $2.5 million per annum.

Not bad for a guy who was ready to pack his bags and head to Europe to play not long ago.

The move keeps Washington’s top pair intact after John Carlson was re-signed on Monday.

Kempny and Carlson formed a formidable partnership after Kempny was acquired at the trade deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks. The move was supposed to find the Capitals some depth on the backend for the playoff run. What they got for the third-round pick they shipped back to the Blackhawks was much more.

Kempny and Carlson gelled as a pairing, one that eventually helped the Capitals for their first Stanley Cup, where Kempny had one goal and two assists in the Finals against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Washington’s top four defenseman — including Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen — are now all locked up for the foreseeable future. Their Cup-winning Top 9 are also returning.

The deal comes a day after Washington locked up forward and playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly to a one-year, $1 million deal.

According to CapFriendly, Kempny’s signing puts the Caps just under $10 million shy of the $79.5 million cap for this upcoming season.

They still have five restricted free agents that they signed to qualifying offers last week that need contracts, including Tom Wilson, Madison Bowey and Travis Boyd.

Washington could look now to adding a veteran depth guy on defense, perhaps bringing back Brooks Oprik, who was traded along with Philipp Grubauer to Colorado to make cap room for the Carlson deal.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck