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It's been a long time coming for Brett Connolly, the Caps' nominee for the Masterton

It's been a long time coming for Brett Connolly, the Caps' nominee for the Masterton

Capitals winger Brett Connolly has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the Washington chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced on Friday.

The Masterton Trophy recognizes perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship.

Connolly has scored a career-high 15 goals this season, despite missing 14 games as a healthy scratch earlier in the campaign.

The 24-year-old's breakout season comes nearly seven years after the Lightning selected him sixth overall. It also comes nine months after the Bruins chose not retain his negotiating rights.

The Caps snapped up Connolly after Boston cut him loose, signing him to a one-year, $850,000 contract.

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After a "rough" start to his tenure in Washington, Coach Barry Trotz shuffled his forward combos and Connolly ended up as the left wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky.

The trio quickly found some chemistry—and Connolly finally found the groove and comfort level he had always sought.

“It’s been good,” Connolly said after practice on Friday. “It was a little bit of a rough start. But after Christmas, when me Lars and Burky were put together, we kinda went on a little run, the team was playing well and it just kinda bled on for the rest of the year.”

Connolly added: “I’m obviously very happy with the way the year has gone.”

Trotz said he’s been pleasantly surprised by Connolly’s goal production, particularly since he doesn't play a whole lot (10:49 per game).

“He’s given us quality minutes,” Trotz said. “Our scouts identified him as a guy who could contribute offensively. How much, I didn’t know. If you had said Brett Connolly is going to give you 15 goals coming into the season, I’d say, ‘We’ll take it, sure.’”

Connolly will be a restricted free agent at season’s end.

“I would love to be back,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of things that can happen from now until the end of the playoffs. A lot of guys are up on their contracts [and] we all have one goal and that’s to ultimately win at the end of the year. We’ll worry about where we’re going to be next year when we’re all done. Hopefully with the Cup.”

Each of the PHWA’s 30 chapters submits a Masterton nominee.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Caps pull out narrow Metro Division win

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How to Watch: Maple Leafs at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

How to Watch: Maple Leafs at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

Sitting firmly at third place in their respective divisions, the Capitals and Maple Leafs are both eager to grab another win for themselves in this classic Atlantic vs Metropolitan division matchup. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Wednesday night game, which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS vs. MAPLE LEAFS HOW TO WATCH

What: Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals, Game 8 of the 2019-20 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs Maple Leafs game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs Maple Leafs on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS VS MAPLE LEAFS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Capitals vs Maple Leafs

9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live

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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.”