As the Capitals ready for the playoffs, they’ll have to make do without one of their top blueliners in Michal Kempny.
The Czech defenseman, who was injured in Wednesday’s loss to the Lightning, is still undergoing testing, but is out indefinitely, according to head coach Todd Reirden.
“I don’t feel comfortable saying [he’s done for the rest of the season] until I get a little bit more medical advice on that one and so we go through all the proper testing we need to know so we can set that proper timetable,” Reirden said. “But right now, I just plan on not having him for an indefinite amount of time.”
After Cedric Paquette took him down in a scrum by the Washington bench, Kempny fell back awkwardly on his leg and stayed down on the ice. He waited for help by the bench door and was helped up by trainer before heading straight down the tunnel, not putting much, if any, weight on that left leg.
Washington acquired Kempny in last year’s trade deadline and saw him go from a seventh defender to a top-pairing blueliner who played an integral part in helping the Capitals clinch their first Cup title.
“He’s a good defender, he’s got great speed and a good attacker I would say, on defense,” John Carlson said. “He takes away time and space really well. A guy that’s really stepped it up in the offensive department, too, this year. We’re surely going to miss him.”
Reirden said the Capitals will start off operating with six defensemen and all have Christian Djoos slot in on that top pairing alongside John Carlson. The two were defensive partners last year before the Capitals traded for Kempny in February.
Since the Capitals brought in Nick Jensen at the deadline, Djoos has mainly been a healthy scratch. Reirden said Friday’s game against the Wild will be a chance for him to prove his worth on the top pairing, though everything is subject to change.
“It’s a great opportunity, I’ve seen those two play together before and I thought he had a strong game the other day against new Jersey. This is why we have the depth we do,” Reirden said. “We’ll put him in that situation [Friday], but it’s going to be probably a little bit of a committee as you move forward depending on the game... for now, Christian will be starting there and expect to see some movement in those spots as well.”
While the circumstances don’t look ideal, with the Metropolitan Division race tightening and the road ahead getting more difficult as Washington looks to repeat, Carlson said the Capitals have enough skill to maintain their strength heading down the stretch.
“I think we have depth and I think no one’s replaceable, but I think the talent and how everyone can work together that we’ve proven in the past, in this year alone, guys have been out of the lineup and other people have stepped up and filled voids,” Carlson said.