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Holtby nails down second straight Star of the Month

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Holtby nails down second straight Star of the Month

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby was on a flight to Boston when the NHL announced he’s been named the league’s “Second Star” for the month of December. Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau was named “First Star” and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane was named “Third Star” for the month.

Holtby was also named “Second Star” for the month of November and stands a good chance of being named an NHL All-Star when the rosters are announced on Wednesday.

Holtby posted a 9-0-1 record with one shutout, a 1.69 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in 11 appearances for the Caps during December to rank second in the NHL in wins.

Holtby led the Eastern Conference-leading Capitals (28-7-3, 59 points) to an 11-2-1 record December. He allowed two or fewer goals in nine of his 11 outings, including a 31-save shutout on Dec. 28 at Buffalo, the 22nd shutout of his NHL career.

In 31 games for the Caps Holtby is 24-4-2 and leads the NHL in wins (24), ranks second in goals-against average (1.92) and tied for fourth in save percentage (.932).

Holtby has earned at least one point in 18 consecutive decisions dating back to Nov. 12 (16-0-2), the longest such streak by any goaltender since Roberto Luongo posted a 21-game run with the Vancouver Canucks in 2010-11 (16-0-5).

Holtby’s back-to-back star of the month selections has certainly put him on the radar for Canada’s 2016 World Cup team. Preliminary 16-player rosters, which must include at least two goaltenders, must be submitted no later than March 1, with the balance of each team’s roster to be announced no later than June 1, 2016.

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Holtby is on pace for 52 wins this season, four more than Martin Brodeur’s NHL record 48-win season with the New Jersey Devils in 2006-07. 

Gaudreau led the NHL with 12 goals and ranked second with 18 points in 13 games to power the Flames (18-18-2, 38 points) to a 9-4-0 December, helping the club set a franchise record with 11 consecutive home victories. He registered at least one point in nine of his 13 appearances, highlighted by four multi-goal performances and a pair of hat tricks.

In doing so, Gaudreau became the first Flames player to post multiple hat tricks in one calendar month since February 2003 (Jarome Iginla: 2). He also collected three game-winning goals, capping his first hat trick at 3:20 of overtime Dec. 4 vs. BOS. The 22-year-old Salem, N.J., native paces the Flames and ranks eighth in the NHL with 17-22—39 in 38 games this season.

Kane again paced the NHL with 9-10—19, including five power-play goals, in 15 games to power the Blackhawks (23-13-4, 50 points) to a 9-5-1 December. He extended his point streak 26 games (16-24—40) before he and the team were shut out Dec. 15 against the Colorado Avalanche.

 In doing so, Kane set a franchise record as well as the longest point streak by a U.S.-born player in NHL history. Overall, he collected at least one point in 12 of his 15 December appearances. The 27-year-old Buffalo native has recorded at least one point in 35 of 40 games this season, leading the League in points (57), assists (34) and power-play goals (t-12) while sharing second in overall goals (23).

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Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.

Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.

Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.

One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.

Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.

Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.

Or perhaps it could mean something else.

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Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.

When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.

Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.

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Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

Michal Kempny excited to move from last place Chicago to first place Caps

On Sunday, Michal Kempny was a defenseman struggling for a spot in the lineup for a team poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. On Monday, he became potentially an important piece on the roster of the first place Capitals.

The last few days have been quite the whirlwind for Kempny who tallied an assist for Chicago on Saturday in a 7-1 blowout against what is now his current team. While the Blackhawks may have gotten the better of Washington that night, Kempny is excited about the postseason opportunity that now lies in front of him.

"Nobody knows what's happening in Chicago, but I'm really happy and I'm really glad that I can be here," Kempny told reporters on Tuesday after his first skate with the team. "There is option of play a playoff and I'm very happy for it."

RELATED: WHERE MICHAL KEMKPNY FITS IN THE CAPS' LINEUP

The 27-year-old Czech defenseman played only 31 games for the Blackhawks this season, but considering Washington's need to shore up its defense before the trade deadline and the team's willingness to give up a third-round pick to acquire him, it is likely he will have a much more significant role with the Caps.

"I thought that I [was] going to get more space on the ice and more ice time, but I didn't play more than half games," Kempny said of his decision to originally sign with Chicago. "But now I'm here and I'm really glad that I'm here. Washington is amazing city and great organization and I hope I will get a chance to access myself on the ice more than in Chicago."

Kempny will not play in Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but did say he expects to play Thursday when the team visits the Florida Panthers.

When he does get into the lineup, it is unclear just how big a role he will play initially or how the team foresees utilizing him going forward. He is a left-shot defenseman and did tell reporters he prefers to play on that side. It seems unlikely the team would acquire him just to put him on his offside.

As of now, however, everything regarding his role in Washington is up in the air.

"I need everything settle down a little bit," he said. "New teammates, new people around here."

MORE CAPITALS: MEET MICHAL KEMPNY