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There’s no setback, but just when Michal Kempny will return remains uncertain

There’s no setback, but just when Michal Kempny will return remains uncertain

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Around the time when the Colorado Avalanche scored its fourth goal to take a 4-0 lead on Monday, the Twitter questions started rolling in. “When is Michal Kempny coming back?”

The Caps’ top-pair left defenseman has yet to play this season after tearing his hamstring in March. His loss was a major factor in the team’s first-round defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs and has led to inconsistent defensive play to start the season.

But the Caps’ defense is going to have to figure out how to defend against the star-studded Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday without Kempny as head coach Todd Reirden declared after practice on Tuesday that Kempny will not play.

“We're getting close,” Reirden said. “That's at least today's report on him without having spoken to our trainer or team doctor anything right now. I just know that he took another step in terms of visually from me that he is getting closer and closer to game action.”

At the start of training camp, the hope was that Kempny would be able to return for the start of the season. He was not. The team elected not to place him on long-term injured reserve which requires a player to miss 10 games. Now seven games into the season, Kempny’s timetable remains uncertain.

When asked if he was hopeful Kempny could return for Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, Reirden did not sound all that confident.

“I am, yeah. I mean, I'm hopeful every time I walk into the training room.”

For the timeline to keep getting pushed back has raised concerns over whether Kempny has suffered a setback in his recovery, but Reirden insists that is not the case.

“There's not nothing to be concerned about,” he said. “If there was a setback I would let you know. There isn't one. He's going on the path he's supposed to be going on and many other people would have this as a longer-term injury than it already has been so he's doing great.”

Kempny was cleared for contact on Oct. 2. and has been a full participant at practice ever since. Getting him back to a point where the doctors and the team can feel comfortable about getting him into the lineup, however, has proven difficult.

Even after losing four of their first seven games to start the season including all three home games, Reirden says the team is committed to remaining patient and cautious with Kempny’s recovery.

“It's making the choice that's the right thing for our organization and for Michal,” he said. “I think that we've been really happy with the development of this player since we got him and saw the strides he made last year and then we were able to realize how big of a loss he would be when we didn't have him. I think that doing anything now to set him up for anything less than success is not worth it. We have to view the risk versus reward and there won't be any risk, it will be that he is 100-percent cleared, ready to go and ready to play.”

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Russians lead the way in Caps' simulated win over Maple Leafs

Russians lead the way in Caps' simulated win over Maple Leafs

Alex Ovechkin scored twice, Ilya Kovalchuk provided another and Ilya Samsonov did the rest in net on Tuesday to lead the Capitals to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL 20 simulated game.

Result: Caps 3, Maple Leafs 2

1st period

1-0 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Evgeny Kuznetsov

1-1 Maple Leafs goal (power play): Zach Hyman from Denis Malgin

2nd period

2-1 Caps goal: Ilya Kovalchuk from Richard Panik and Nic Dowd

3rd period

3-1 Caps goal: Alex Ovechkin from Tom Wilson and John Carlson

3-2 Maple Leafs goal: Auston Matthews from Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman


How the Caps won

1. Ovechkin is back

Alex Ovechkin did not score in any of the first three games since NBC Sports Washington began broadcasting the NHL 20 simulations beginning on March 24. He finally broke through with a goal Monday against the Buffalo Sabres and the flood gates were open. He scored twice on Tuesday giving him three goals in two games.

Evgeny Kuznetsov cut off a breakout pass from Jake Muzzin and set up Ovechkin on the backdoor for Washington's first goal. In the third period, Kuznetsov won a puck battle and the Caps pulled off a nice passing play from Carlson to Wilson to Ovechkin for the one-timer. That goal proved to be the game-winner.

2. Kovalchuk breaks the tie

The Caps and Maple Leafs battled to a 1-1 tie through the first period.  Kovalchuk made sure the game would not be tied again in the second with a heads-up play to the net.

Locked in a board battle in the corner of the offensive zone, the puck was kicked back to Panik near the blue line. For some reason, Kovalchuk was the only player in the corner who wasn't caught watching the puck. He made a quick cut to the middle out of the scrum and Panik returned the puck back to him. Kovalchuk had a step on defenseman Martin Marincin and beat goalie Frederik Andersen glove-side.

3. Ilya Samsonov

Washington was the better team in this game, but Toronto is a skilled enough team that they can strike quickly if there is no cushion on the scoreboard. The last several simulated games have been blowout wins for Washington, but this one was not. The Caps needed every last save from Samsonov and he delivered with an outstanding performance.

Next game

The Caps were scheduled to play the Minnesota Wild at home on Thursday. The game will be simulated with NHL 20 on NBC Sports Washington at 7 p.m.

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Alex Ovechkin and his son Sergei team up for a Capitals simulation game

Alex Ovechkin and his son Sergei team up for a Capitals simulation game

The only thing better than watching Alex Ovechkin actually play hockey is watching him virtually play with his son Sergei.

During the NHL's hiatus, Ovechkin is keeping the family fun going, as this video from his wife's Instagram account shows him playing NHL 20 with his son Seregi on his lap. 

Ovi and Ovi Jr. are both dialed into the TV screen, which shows the Caps simulation game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

In fact, even as the camera pans to their faces, they both only take a quick glance before returning their focus to the action on the ice. 

With this duo manning the controls, the Caps no doubt secured a virtual win. 

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