Michal Kempny’s recovery from a hamstring injury last season made another positive step on Saturday. According to Tom Gulitti, Kempny took part in a conditioning skating test, which he passed.
Capitals head coach Todd Reirden later spoke to the media in a press conference, where he ruled Kempny out of the Caps’ final preseason game in Carolina on Sunday. Reirden also said Kempny is “highly likely” to sit out the Capitals’ season opener October 2 against the St. Louis Blues.
“He’s coming along really well for that injury. It’s a longterm one so he’s right on schedule. Doing great with it,” Reirden said. “In a perfect world, if we could get him into one exhibition game and Game One that would have been already ahead of schedule so he’s doing fine and continues every day to get more comfortable.”
With Kempny now expected to be out for the season opener, the battle for his roster spot is also heating up. Martin Fehervary, Jonas Siegenthaler, and Christian Djoos are all in the running to begin the season as John Carlson’s partner. Reirden remains high on Fehervary, who models his game after Kempny.
“I’ve liked the the looks of a couple different things. Whether it’s Fehevary, a guy who’s young, an up-and-coming guy who’s similar to Kempny in terms of how he plays,” Reirden said. “We’ve seen Christian Djoos with his ability to make plays offensively from that side. And then Siegenthaler for us is a big body can skate well and can defend against top guys. So we’ve got a couple really good options and we’ll take a look at a couple different combinations tomorrow and see how that goes.”
Kempny has been working with Capitals’ strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish both on and off the ice since his return to Washington. While the aim was to see Kempny return to the lineup for the start of the regular season, the Capitals and Kempny, have stressed that they won’t rush his rehab. Reirden does hope that Kempny will start taking contact “as soon as next week.”
“We’re still hoping things continue to move in the right direction. Just another few days to get him past the opener there. Then [give him] time [so he’s] been through contact and a number of different situations so he’s really comfortable on the ice,” Reirden said. “We don’t want to put him out there unprepared. No preseason games for him. We’ll practice and put him in situations where there’s a lot of five-on-five play.”
With more cuts still to come to the roster to ensure that the Capitals are salary cap compliant for the beginning of the season, some speculation was made that Kempny could be placed on long term injured reserve. While that would provide the Capitals with $2.5 million in salary cap relief for 24 days, Kempny is already participating in practices wearing a no-contact jersey, and is more than likely going to be ready to return sooner rather than later.
The Capitals head to Raleigh on Sunday for their final preseason game. With the season opener in St. Louis on Wednesday, the Capitals opening night roster will become much clearer over the next few days.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong
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