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Caps try to stay positive after Game 6 loss

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Caps try to stay positive after Game 6 loss

It was a valiant effort, but after going down by three early in the third, the Caps fell to the New York Rangers 4-3 and will head back to Madison Square Garden for a winner-take-all Game 7.

"It’s the best team in the league so I don’t think anybody’s shocked," Brooks Orpik said. "It took us the third period in Game 7 to beat the Islanders. All due respect to them this is a better team than the Islanders."

"Yeah, we lose the game, but life is not over, right?" Evgeny Kuznetsov said. "You have to stay positive and find a way how you beat these guys. This is a good team." 

The Rangers set the tone early as Chris Kreider scored twice in the first period, one 40 seconds into the game and the other with just 0.3 remaining to put the Rangers up 2-0.

After a few shaky goals, Braden Holtby recovered to keep the Caps close, turning away 24 of the Rangers' 28 shots on goal. After the game, it was clear the team felt the responsibility for those goals fell on them and their effort and not on their star netminder.

"He was great as usual," Marcus Johansson said. "He can’t save everything. We have to help him out a little bit."

RELATED: Furious rally falls short as Caps lose 4-3 to Rangers in Game 6

This game now marks the fourth-straight in which Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green were all held without a point.

"We knew we’d have to step up, we knew we have to play better," Ovechkin said.

It was that offensive futility that led to Trotz shaking up the lines mid-game. After so many games with the same offensive line combinations, the Caps could have panicked or collapsed, but the team seemed to respond.

"Sometimes the coach has to do that to get a spark or make something happen and it worked later in the third period," Johansson said. Though the game felt over after Rick Nash put New York up 4-1 in the final frame, the Caps mounted a comeback with two goals to pull within one with just under 10 minutes remaining.

Erasing a three-goal deficit against Henrik Lundqvist, however, is a tall task and the Caps ultimately fell short. Still, the resolve the team showed by mounting a comeback is a positive the team hopes to cling to as they prepare for Game 7.

"The character of this group, it shows a lot," Ovechkin said. "We’re going to come back and win the series."

Despite losing two-straight and now facing a Game 7 back in New York, there is no panic within the locker room as most players said they felt "excited" by the prospect of Wednesday's winner-take-all clash.

Said Kuznetsov, "We have the same chance like their guys, 50/50."

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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. 

RELATED: UPDATED NHL POWER RANKINGS

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.

RELATED: TROTZ REACTS TO RACIAL COMMENTS MADE BY CHICAGO FANS

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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.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE LATEST NHL POWER RANKINGS

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.

MORE CAPITALS: BLACKHAWKS FANS TOSSED AFTER DIRECTING RACIAL REMARKS AT SMITH-PELLY

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.