Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny admitted that his first NHL game back in over a year wasn’t his best performance.
The Czech blueliner suited up for the first time since the 2020 playoff bubble in Wednesday’s 5-4 preseason loss to the New Jersey Devils, skating on the second pairing with Vinnie Iorio. He picked up an assist, but did have a couple of costly turnovers and was on the ice for goals against. He finished the night with a minus-1 rating.
“It wasn’t good [game], obviously, I mean, I knew it’s not going to be perfect,” Kempny explained. “I just feel like my legs, I was moving very well, I did some of the good things, I did some of the bad things, for sure. I knew it’s not going to be perfect, but I need to get used to, back to the game situations. Need to get more repetitions to get my game back.”
The defenseman has suffered a number of injuries in his left leg over the last couple of seasons. In March 2019, he suffered a torn hamstring, then tore his Achilles tendon while training for the 2020-21 campaign. He was working toward a comeback late in the season, but a freak accident with an ice shoveler led to a Grade 2 MCL strain, leading him to “give up” on the season.”
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He said he felt good in his return, though, and believes his injury troubles are behind him. When it comes back to getting back in game shape, he said he needs to get back in the rhythm of reading plays, controlling the gap and getting used to the pace.
“I felt like I didn’t read some of the situations as I should,” Kempny noted in regard to the New Jersey game, adding, “I haven’t played game in a long time, but it’s not an excuse.
“I think my gap was really good that game. My skating, I felt really good on the ice,” Kempny added. “Sometimes, I felt I made a wrong turn or something like that, and I get a little bit caught. So those kind of situation, I have to really focus on and get better at. You cannot practice the game, game is so different.”
The 31-year-old defender said he hopes to get in as many games as he can in the preseason, and that it’s better to work on shaking off the rust now rather than during the regular season.
Head coach Peter Laviolette agreed, saying he wants Kempny to get some more ice time in Washington’s exhibitions to return to full strength.
“We got to give him some games… it’s been a long grind for him, two major surgeries,” Laviolette said. “We got to give him some time to plan to work things out.”
Here is who is on the Capitals’ roster against Philly:
Forwards: Daniel Sprong, Garnet Hathaway, Michal Sgarbossa, Nic Dowd, Anthony Mantha, Garrett Pilon, Tom Wilson, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Brett Leason, Aliaksei Protas, Carl Hagelin, Conor Sheary, Joe Snively, Evgeny Kuznetsov
Defensemen: Justin Schultz, Nick Jensen, Michal Kempny, Alex Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Tobias Geisser, Trevor van Riemsdyk
Goaltenders: Ilya Samsonov (starter), Pheonix Copley