Defenseman Michal Kempny played in his first Washington Capitals game since August 14, 2020, on Wednesday. It did not go well.
Kempny was noticeable, but not in a good way. He struggled to make defensive reads and he was on the ice for the Devils’ first two goals of the night.
Kempny was first burned by Yegor Sharangovich as he split the Capitals’ defense and scored on Zach Fucale via a breakaway.
Later, a brutal turnover by Kempny right in front of the net gave Jack Hughes one of the easiest goals of his career. Kempny essentially passed the puck right onto Hughes’ stick.
“Wasn’t a good one, obviously”, Kempny told the Washington Post’s Samantha Pell of his preseason performance. “I knew it was not going to be perfect. I feel like my legs was, I was moving very well. I need to get more repetitions to get my game back.”
Kempny ended up with an assist and a minus-one rating in over 19 minutes of ice time against the Devils.
“I didn’t have problem with the skating,” Kempny said according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti. “I felt like I didn’t read some of the situations as I should. I haven’t played a game in a long time. It’s not an excuse. I know that, but I’m looking forward tomorrow. It’s a new day, new game and I just want to get better.”
As the Caps narrow in on a more regular lineup, Friday’s practice saw Kempny skating on the second defensive pairing with Justin Schultz. If that sticks, it would place him over guys like Martin Fehervary, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Matt Irwin on the current depth chart at left defense.
Capitals lines/d-pairs at Friday’s practice:
*Lapierre took first line rushes as 3C, McMichael in the second time around
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) October 1, 2021
If Kempny were to take the ice on October 13 against the Rangers it would be his first, true NHL regular-season game in 583 days.
Kempny is trying to reclaim his spot in the lineup after three consecutive injuries to his left leg put his NHL career in doubt. The Czech has been out since he tore his Achilles tendon before the start of the 2020-21 campaign. Last year, when he tried to return to the Capitals lineup in the playoffs, he suffered a freak incident with an ice shoveler in Hershey that saw him suffer a grade 2 MCL sprain.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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