The Caps got a double dose of good news on Saturday morning: both defenseman Michal Kempny and fourth line center Jay Beagle appear to be on track to suit up Sunday against Columbus in a pivotal Game 2 on home ice.
Kempny left Thursday’s playoff opener in the first period after being planted face first into the end boards by Josh Anderson. The bruising Blue Jackets forward received five minutes for boarding and a game misconduct; Kempny did not return to the game, leaving the Caps with only five defensemen for the balance of the night.
Kempny was among the first players on the ice for practice Saturday morning. He was sporting several stitches over his right eye, a bruised right cheek and a small cut on the bridge of his nose.
“I feel pretty good,” Kempny said. “I’m ready to go. I’m looking forward for tomorrow.”
Kempny reclaimed his spot in the top-4, skating alongside John Carlson.
As for Beagle, he picked up where he left off four games ago—skating in the middle of the Caps’ fourth line. His wingers on Saturday morning were Chandler Stephenson and Alex Chiasson.
Although Beagle has been out since leaving the Pittsburgh game on April 1 with an upper-body injury, his absence was never felt more than it was Thursday night against the Blue Jackets.
The Caps lost 10 of 11 defensive zone draws in the third period of Game 1. Beagle, of course, is a faceoff specialist. In fact, his winning percentage—58.5—was fourth best in the NHL during the regular season.
“Jay is probably one of those guys you don’t value him as much until you don’t have him,” Caps Coach Barry Trotz said. “The one place he can make a difference is in that faceoff circle.”
“Jay is probably one of those guys you don’t value him as much until you don’t have him.” — Barry Trotz on Jay Beagle, who *appears* to be on track to return Sunday. The #Caps lost 10 of 11 defensive zone draws in the third period of Game 1. #CapsJackets #CBJ pic.twitter.com/oRBTOnjAWe— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) April 14, 2018
Beagle stayed on the ice longer than most of his teammates and went through some vigorous corner battles vs. defenseman Madison Bowey. Assuming Beagle feels well Sunday morning, he would seem likely to be in the lineup come game time.