As Kempny wrestled Tampa Bay forward Cedric Paquette by the Capitals’ bench late in the second period Wednesday night, his leg got awkwardly caught under him as he fell to the ice. Asked whether Kempny could be out for the rest of the season, Reirden said: “I don’t feel comfortable saying that until I get a little bit more medical advice on that one and we go through all the proper testing we need to know so we can set that proper timetable. But right now, I just plan on not having him for an indefinite amount of time.”
With Kempny out, second-year blue-liner Christian Djoos is expected to take his place beside John Carlson on the team’s top pairing. In more than 600 minutes Djoos and Carlson have been on the ice together at five-on-five this season and last, the Capitals have taken 53.45 percent of the shot attempts, according to Natural Stat Trick. Kempny has skated an average of 19 minutes per game this season, and he has scored a career-high six goals with 19 assists.
Djoos has been largely out of the lineup for the past month, after the Capitals acquired defenseman Nick Jensen from the Detroit Red Wings. He played Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils, skating 16:26 and tallying a primary assist. Carlson said Djoos “could be the smartest hockey player in this room altogether.”
“It’s a great opportunity,” Reirden said. “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. We’ll put him in that situation tonight, but it’s going to be probably a little bit of a committee as you move forward, depending on the game. You know, a lot of times during the game the number of penalties helps sway things in a certain way one way or the other. Obviously we’ll miss Michal; he’s been a really good player for us in the playoffs last year. He’s had a strong regular season push his numbers to career highs and stuff. Hopefully we can get some better news on that, but for now Christian will be starting there and expect to see some movement in those spots as well.”
The Capitals acquired Kempny before the trade deadline last year, and adding his mobility to the blue line helped Washington solidify its defensive play en route to a Stanley Cup championship. According to CapFriendly.com, the Capitals’ current cap space is $807,333, so the organization could recall an extra defenseman, likely rookie Jonas Siegenthaler, but Reirden said the team will stick with six blue liners through at least Friday’s game.
“He’s a big piece of this team and we’re going to have to all step up,” Carlson said of Kempny.