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Caps fans given a scare with Kuznetsov injury

Caps fans given a scare with Kuznetsov injury

Two years ago today, during the IIHF World Championships in Belarus, the Capitals received a long-distance scare when Alex Ovechkin was the victim of a nasty hip check against Germany and was taken out of the arena by ambulance.

During the same tournament, defenseman Dmitry Orlov suffered a broken wrist that kept him out of the entire 2014-15 season.

On Tuesday, Caps fans again held their collective breaths when Evgeny Kuznetsov was checked in the head by Sweden’s Mikael Backlund in Russia’s 4-1 win.

Kuznetsov was rocked as he crossed the offensive blue line and was slow to get to his feet as Ovechkin stood beside him. Kuznetsov returned to the game and Russian coach Oleg Znarok said the center was fine after the game.

But again, it brings up the question over whether NHL teams should allow their star players to play in international tournaments.

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“It’s always cool to play for my country,” Kuznetsov said before leaving for this year’s World Championships, with are being staged in Russia. “Any time they will call me, I will say, ‘Yes, I’m going, 100 percent’ because that’s my country.”

All 30 NHL teams will be placed in a similar predicament in September when the World Cup of Hockey makes its debut in Toronto.

John Carlson, T.J. Oshie (USA), Braden Holtby (Canada), Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov (Russia) and Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden) all have been named to preliminary rosters for the tournament, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.  

As for Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov, they advanced to the quarterfinals of this year’s World Championships, as did Andre Burakovsky with Team Sweden.

Russia will face Germany at 1:15 p.m. ET on Thursday in Moscow and Sweden will face Canada in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday at 1:15 p.m. ET.

Orlov has earned two assists in three games at the tournament and Ovechkin (1 assist), Kuznetsov (1 goal) and Burakovsky (1 goal) have each earned a point. 

MORE CAPITALS: CAPITALS GM MACLELLAN FACES TOUGH QUESTIONS ON WINNING FOR OVECHKIN, BACKSTROM

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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. 

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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.

MORE ON THE TRADE: WHERE DOES KEMPNY FIT IN THE CAPS ROSTER

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

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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.

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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.

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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.