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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Hurricanes


AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Hurricanes

The Capitals (24-6-2, 50 points) just continue to find ways to win. Will Monday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes (13-15-5, 31 points) be a bit less dramatic than the Caps' last two games? Catch all the action on CSN Plus starting at 6:30 p.m.

Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

A rising star: Carolina may not look all that intimidating when it comes to the standings, where they sit ahead of only Columbus in the Metropolitan Division, but the team knows they will face a hard-working team on Monday night and one of the league's top defensemen.

"They play really quick,' head coach Barry Trotz said. "They’ll pressure you all over the ice. They come at you hard. They have a very active dee. Justin Faulk is turning into one of the premier defensemen in the league. They’re hard to play against. Every night they bring a full-out effort."

Faulk actually leads the team in points with 27. He's someone the Caps need to account for on the power play as all 12 of his goals this season have come with his team a man up.

An ouchie for Oshie: T.J. Oshie will be a game-time decision with a lower-body injury. The Caps winger left for the locker room midway through the second period of Sunday's game. He did return for the start of the third, but had only 14:49 of ice time for the game, his second lowest for the season. Oshie has been on a tear of late with eight points in his last four games which earned him Second Star NHL honors for the week.

Vacation starts early: Philipp Grubauer will get the start in net on Monday, giving Braden Holtby the night off after playing Sunday in New York. Trotz hinted on Sunday that he may play Holtby in the second leg of the back-to-back after pulling him early on Friday against Tampa Bay. Grubauer has compiled a respectable 3-2-1 record in relief, but Holtby showed he can handle a heavy workload after playing in 73 games last season. Monday's game marks the sixth back-to-back set of the season for the Caps who are 9-1-1 in back-to-back games outscoring their opponents 40-24. After tonight, the Caps will have another seven back-to-backs over the course of the season.

Brothers in arms: When Eric Staal and Jordan Staal united in Carolina, it was thought the Hurricanes would have one of the strongest lineups down the center in the NHL. Things haven't exactly gone that way for the Hurricanes. This season, the Staal brothers have managed only 32 points combined. Eric Staal, 31, has long been the subject of trade rumors as his contract will expire at the end of the season. With the Hurricanes not likely headed for the playoffs, it's not inconceivable that Carolina could attempt to move their long-time captain at some point this season.

Struggles in net: The Hurricanes added goaltending depth in the offseason with the acquisition of Eddie Lack, but the move has not paid off as both he and Cam Ward have struggled this season. Lack has registered only a .876 save percentage while giving up 3.34 goals per game. Ward has not been much better with a .899 save percentage and a 2.58 GAA. Ward will start tonight for Carolina, but given those numbers, it would not be surprising if the Caps end up seeing both netminders over the course of the game.

Fond memories: Justin Williams returns to Carolina where he registered 201 points in five seasons and won a Stanley Cup in 2006. Mr. Game 7 scored an empty-netter in Game 7 against the Edmonton Oilers to ice the series. Williams scored two goals and added an assist in Sunday's win over the Rangers. For the season, he has 10 goals and 13 assists.

Road-ice advantage? The Caps are 9-3-0 in their last 12 games on the road against Carolina and have won five of their last six. Washington has found plenty of success against the Hurricanes in recent years as they have gone 18-6-3 overall against the divisional foe since the start of the 2010-11 season and 6-1-1 in their last eight meetings.

Lasting success: In addition to the team success, several Caps players also seem to enjoy a matchup with the 'Canes. Nicklas Backstrom has more tallied more points against Carolina than any other NHL team with 49 in 42 games. Alex Ovechkin also has a whopping 74 points, the third-most he has against any NHL team. It's not just the offense. In 12 games, Braden Holtby has enjoyed an 8-4-0 record with one shutout, a 1.99 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage.

Here we go again: The Caps' win on Sunday was the second consecutive game the team has rallied from a multi-goal deficit to win in regulation. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the fifth time in franchise history that the Capitals have won consecutive games by overcoming a deficit of at least two goals in each game, but it's only the second time they've done so with two regulation wins. The only other time the Caps managed this feat was in February of 1986

Projected Lines


Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich - Michael Latta - Andre Burakovsky

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Philipp Grubauer

Braden Holtby

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)

Scratched Stanislav GalievConnor Carrick


Kris Versteeg - Eric Staal - Elias Lindholm

Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Phillip Di Giuseppe

Joakim Nordstrom - Jordan Staal - Andrej Nestrasil

Brad Malone - Jay McClement - Chris Terry

John-Michael Liles - Justin Faulk

Jaccob Slavin - Ron Hainsey

Noah Hanifin - Brett Pesce

Cam Ward

Eddie Lack

Injured: James Wisniewski (knee), Nathan Gerbe (lower body)

Scratched: Riley Nash

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Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

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Get to know newest Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny

On Monday, with the NHL trade deadline approaching, the Washington Capitals addressed a need for blue line depth by acquiring Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

But before you begin to analyze how the move impacts the Capitals' outlook heading forward, lets take some time to get to know the newest member of the Caps.

Who is Michal Kempny?

Michal Kempny is a 27-year-old defenseman from the Czech Republic. He was born on Sept. 8, 1990 in Hodonin, a small town in southwestern Czech Republic near the border of Austria and Slovakia. Kempny began his hockey career playing for SHK Hodonin. Kempny knew very little english upon arriving to the NHL, but credited his girlfriend Showtime shows to helping him become more comfortable speaking the language. 


What International Experience Does Michal Kempny Have?

Michal Kempny played professionally for HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Extraliga and Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League. Kempny was a standout player on the international stage, playing for the Czech Republic U18, U20 and Men's National teams.


When Did Michal Kempny Make His NHL Debut?

Michal Kempny was signed to a one-year contract as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks in May, 2016 and made his NHL debut in October, 2016. Kempny scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 30, 2016 against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. Kempny appeared in 50 games for the Blackhawks during the 2016-17 season, recording two goals and six assists. The Blackhawks re-signed Kempny to a one-year extension during the offseason. Kempny played in 31 games this season before being traded to the Capitals.

What Type of Hockey Player is Michal Kempny?

Kempny is a 6-0, 194-pound defenseman with a strong left-handed shot. Known for his play on the offensive end, Kempny was never able to gain the trust of Joel Quenneville on the defensive end. But Kempny has a good bit of offensive upside, thanks to his passing skills and strong shot, which is why the Blackhawks took a flier on him in the first place and why he was an ideal trade candidate for the Capitals. But again, Kempny's size is less than ideal for a top-tier blue-liner and while he doesn't shy away from contact, he is rarely much of a physical presence. 

What Does Michal Kempny's Contract Look Like?

Michael Kempny is set to become an unrestricted free agent the the end of the 2017-18 season and has a cap hit of just $900,000.


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Where Michael Kempny fits in the Caps' lineup


Where Michael Kempny fits in the Caps' lineup

If there was one thing the Caps needed to address at the trade deadline, it was defense.

Washington ranks only 20th in the NHL in defense with 2.98 goals against per game. Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos have played well in their rookie seasons, but their play has also been marked with rookie mistakes. To have both in the lineup in the playoffs would present an obvious weakness and matchup opportunities for opposing coaches to exploit.

On Monday, the Caps attempted to address their need for defensive depth by trading for defenseman Michal Kempny, a 27-year-old blue liner with good skating ability and offensive upside.


So what does this mean for the lineup?

Given the immediate need the Caps have on defense, it would not make sense to make a trade for a No. 7 defenseman who won't play. Having Kempny sitting in the press box does not address any of the team's issues on the blue line. Unless Brian MacLellan is planning on making another move, Kempny was brought in to play.

As a left-shot defenseman, he will most likely play on the left. Barry Trotz may ultimately need someone to play someone on their off-side, but asking a player who has played in only 31 games this season to step into a new team and play on the right is a lot to ask.

Let's get this out of the way: Kempny was not brought in to replace Brooks Orpik. His addition will not push Orpik to No. 7 in the lineup. Moving Orpik into the top four, however, certainly does not make this team better. If Orpik is staying put on the third pair, it seems most likely that Kempny will ultimately play to the left of John Carlson.

Here's a possible lineup:

Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Michal Kempny-John Carlson
Christian Djoos-Brooks Orpik

Extras: Taylor Chorney, Madison Bowey

If this is the route the Caps choose to go, this would most likely mean moving Bowey to Hershey for the rest of the regular season as he is still waiver exempt. Placing Chorney on waivers to move him to Hershey, however, would not be out of the question.


The Orpik-Bowey pairing has looked slow in recent weeks and moving Djoos to that pair provides a lot more mobility. Trotz will ultimately need to shelter the third pair, but it is easier to shelter one defensive pair than shelter two rookies playing on two different pairs which was the situation facing Washington before the trade for Kempny.

Kempny may start on the third pair and have to work his way up, but, barrig any further moves or glaring chemistry issues, the most likely scenario is that we will ultimately see Kempny in the top-four.

A third-round draft pick may seem like a steep price for a defenseman who played only 31 games this season, but he played well whenever he was in the lineup. If he is able to step into Washington's top-four, that third-round pick ultimately will not look like such a high price tag.