The Washington Capitals lost starting netminder Darcy Kuemper to an upper-body injury in a game against the Calgary Flames. Kuemper took an elbow to the head from Tyler Toffoli as the Flames forward was skating backward toward the crease.
Kuemper has not played a game in the last 18 days and counting, but that’s soon to change.
The Capitals play in Ottawa on Thursday before taking on Winnipeg at home in back-to-back games.
“They’re most likely going to split the games,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said.
When Kuemper went down on December 3, the Capitals were in dire straights and were well out of a possible playoff spot. Then Charlie Lindgren came in and the whole vibe of the team changed. The backup won seven of the last eight games, catapulting Washington into a tie with the New York Islanders for the second wild-card spot. Lindgren was even named the NHL’s First Star of the Week for the week ending on December 11.
“He was on fire in there,” Kuemper said after a strenuous practice on Wednesday. “I think the team really rallied around that. I was super happy for him, happy for our group. We need the points. It was nice to see the guys go on a roll.”
It’s unclear which goaltender will get the nod for each game, but Kuemper, who only won eight of his first 20 starts, is happy to just simply be performing his craft again.
“I’m excited to be back on the ice,” Kuemper said. “It’s never fun watching. A little bit easier when the team was playing so well and having so much success. You don’t feel guilty you’re not out there helping. Good to be healthy again, feeling good, and ready to play.”
The day-to-day injury kept Kuemper off a longer time than he hoped. He was re-added to the roster on Monday when he was able to serve as Lindgren’s back up against Detroit.
“We didn’t really have a timeline for it,” Kuemper said. “I was hoping I could be back as soon as possible. I was trying my best but sometimes you have to wait until you’re healthy and nothing you can do about it.”
While he was out Kuemper worked a lot with Capitals goaltending coach Scott Murray trying to get his rhythm and timing back, but there’s only one thing he thinks would get him back at the top of his game.
“You just have to get back out there and playing again,” Kuemper said. “It’s kind of like riding a bike. Trust the process, not overthink it, and just go and play. Make sure you’re doing what makes you successful.”
Laviolette focused on the positives that the team was able to be successful without their workhorse in net.
“It was nice to give him the time,” Laviolette said. “Just to get back into it and feel good about his game and to be put in a position where he’s comfortable and confident and ready to go. It’s such an important position out on the ice that you want your goaltender to feel good about where he’s at mentally, physically, reps on the ice, practice time, all of that really matters. He’s been able to get that and he’s ready now.”
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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