Quick Links

Capitals injury updates: TJ Oshie is ready for training camp, but Michal Kempny is not

Capitals injury updates: TJ Oshie is ready for training camp, but Michal Kempny is not

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Injuries were a major storyline at the end of the Capitals’ season in 2019. Heading into the new season, that storyline has not completely gone away.

Michal Kempny and T.J. Oshie were both injured at the end of the season. Whether they would have been the difference in the team’s first-round series loss is impossible to project, but the fact that it took double overtime in Game 7 for Washington to lose, it seems at least possible if not likely that having even one of those players in the lineup could have made the difference.

Kempny was lost before the postseason began when he suffered a torn left hamstring in a regular-season game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. When the Caps take the ice for the first on-ice session of training camp on Friday, Kempny will not be joining the team for the regular practice.

“He’s progressing well,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “I think the training staff is going to be cautious with him. I think the most important thing with him is that he’s healthy going into the year.”

It has been nearly six months since Kempny originally suffered the injury. He plays on the left side of the team’s top defensive pair alongside John Carlson. His loss leaves a gaping hole in the lineup, but even though he is not ready to resume practicing, there is hope he could be ready for the start of the season.

“I believe, yeah,” Kempny said when asked if he would be ready for the Oct. 2 opener in St. Louis, “But I don't want to say I'm going to be ready and something happen. That's my goal, my focus to be ready for opening season.”

“The target is probably game one, but we’ll see,” MacLellan said. “We’re not going to rush it. He’ll start doing drills here next week, and then we’ll make a decision on when he can enter practice.”

With the start of the regular season up in the air, that calls into serious doubt whether he will get a chance to play in the preseason. Kempny said he was ultimately not concerned and that he was confident he could step into the lineup and play even if he did not get any preseason games.

“I can play game when I'm not 100-percent so when I feel that I'm ready to go, I'm going to play,” he said. “But if it's going to be like during the training camp, I don't know yet.”

The team is also expected to be without two prospects on Friday including the much-heralded Alex Alexeyev.

Alexeyev and Kody Clark suffered upper-body injuries at the Prospects Showcase and MacLellan preached caution.

“I doubt that [Alexeyev will]l be on the ice tomorrow,” MacLellan said. “It’ll be a few days. Same with Clark.”

The news is more positive for Oshie who said he has completely recovered from the broken clavicle he suffered in the playoffs.

“Shoulder is 100 percent,” he said. “Got some new hardware in there. I don’t think this one is going to be breaking any time soon.”

“The whole thing is metal now,” Oshie added. “I got a lot of metal in the body, but no, I needed a plate for the whole thing. She’s strong. A bunch of screws and yeah I’m good. I’m ready to go. I was able to do all the testing, the strength testing. Actually did better than I thought I would.”

When asked, Oshie said he had a metal plate put in his shoulder with 12 screws. Evidently he also has a metal plate and 10 screws in one of his ankles.

Asked if the team was dealing with any other injuries for camp, MacLellan could only think of one.

“One of our guys fell off a bike, so I think he’s OK but he doesn’t look good.”


Quick Links

The 2 biggest questions the Caps still need answered after 10 games

The 2 biggest questions the Caps still need answered after 10 games

The Capitals are 10 games into the 2019-20 season. For the most part, things have gone well. The team is 6-2-2 and sits atop the Metropolitan Division. John Carlson leads the entire NHL with 18 points which puts him in some pretty elite company. Ilya Samsonov looks as good as advertised while Braden Holtby looks like his old self after a brief reset. Alex Ovechkin has six goals already and T.J. Oshie leads the team with seven. Plus, both special teams units look improved.

That’s a pretty solid start.

But there remain two important questions that still need answers.

Who should play on the right on the second defensive pair?

Michal Kempny finally returned after missing the first eight games of the season. He started the last two on the third pair, but is working his way back up to the top pairing. Once he gets there, the defense will finally be at full strength.

That gives Washington a pretty solid top three of Kempny and Carlson, plus Dmitry Orlov. But who should play on the right with Orlov?

Jensen had the first crack at it to start the season, but after some up-and-down play, Radko Gudas was bumped up for a few games. Since Kempny returned, Gudas moved back down to third to play with him and Jensen moved back with Orlov.

So far Gudas has been as good as advertised, but playing well on the third pair does not necessarily mean he should be on the second.

Jensen was one of Detroit’s top defensemen when he was acquired by the Caps. The team is still waiting for that player to emerge. It has been a tough transition for him to Washington's system and, while he has shown flashes of strong play, he remains largely inconsistent. His Corsi-For percentage at 5-on-5 is the second-worst on the team at 46.82-percent. He is one of only three Caps below 50-percent with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tyler Lewington being the other two.

The issue for the Caps may be that they have two high-quality third pair right defensemen in Jensen and Gudas and only one top-four right defenseman in Carlson which leaves a hole on that second pair.

When it comes to the defense, we should reserve all judgment until Kempny is back to playing on the top-pair full-time so we can see this defense at full strength. Until then, however, the second pair remains a question mark.

Can the Caps get enough production from the third line?

There wasn’t much offense to speak of from the Carl Hagelin, Lars Eller, Richard Panik trio and it didn’t take Todd Reirden long to split them up. Hagelin is the Swiss Army knife of the Caps’ offense, but his offensive production is limited. Panik meanwhile has had a tough start to his Caps’ tenure with zero points and is on long-term injured reserve.

As always, the top six for this team remains lethal and the additions of Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway to the fourth line have been home runs. The third line is the only one that remains a question and it may need a boost from a player like Jakub Vrana, who has been playing there the last few games with Eller and Hathaway, to help spark some production. Ultimately, however, you would like to see Vrana back in the top six and Hathaway back on the fourth. Hagelin, Eller and Panik are the best fit for the third, but if they can’t produce together it may mean weakening the top six or the fourth line by moving players around to find a combination that produces on that third line.


Quick Links

John Carlson's seven assists nabs him the NHL's second star of the week

John Carlson's seven assists nabs him the NHL's second star of the week

John Carlson has opened this season with monster numbers, putting up three goals and 15 assists in 10 games. He currently leads the league in points with 18. 

The NHL has noticed and named Carlson their second star of the week. Boston's David Pastrnak got the first star, while Buffalo's Carter Hutton was named the third star.

In four games last week, Carlson notched one goal and seven assists for eight points. He currently leads the league in assists with 15.

Carlson is also in historic company. The only other two defensemen to score as many or more points than Carlson in the first 10 games of a season are Bobby Orr (2‑16—18 in 1969-70 and 5-13—18 in 1973-74, w/ Boston) and Paul Coffey (3-17—20 in 1988-89, w/ Pittsburgh).