The Capitals took to the ice on Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C. for a morning practice hoping to shake off a season-opening 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The team placed defenseman Jack Hillen on injured reserve with an upper-body injury suffered Saturday night. Hillen left the ice hunched over with his left shoulder dangling by his side. Obviously the team isn’t releasing the exact nature – that’s not how they roll – but he is listed week-to-week.
“I told him I was sorry that he got hurt already just like that,” fellow defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s tough. But he’s a strong kid, a very fit kid. I’m sure he’s gonna be coming back pretty soon. He should be fine.”
In response, the Caps recalled defenseman Tomas Kundratek, who made a brief appearance with the club last season (five games) and had 13 goals and 13 assists in 41 games with AHL Hershey this season. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder was named an Eastern Conference All-Star at that spot. He gives Washington another right-handed shot on the blueline with Hillen out. The only others on the roster are Mike Green and John Carlson.
“I was really surprised [about the recall]. I was working hard and I was really happy about it,” Kundratek said.
Kundratek, 23, was acquired last season in a trade with the New York Rangers. After struggling early in the season with the Connecticut Whale – the Rangers’ top farm team – he thrived in Hershey with 12 goals and 11 assists in 55 games.
“I remember he was skilled, good with the puck. He made some nice passes,” Alzner said. “I remember we were saying that he’d be a good player for us one of these days so it’d be nice to see how he’s developed the last few [months]. But I think he’ll be fine.”
Plus-minus isn’t an ideal stat to evaluate defensive prospects – but for what it’s worth Kundratek was a -13 with the Bears, worst on the team. No word on if he’ll be in the lineup Tuesday against Winnipeg.
Meanwhile, Washington coach Adam Oates said that injured forward Brooks Laich (groin) might be ready to participate in a practice with the team on Wednesday. Laich missed his first season opener since 2005 on Saturday. He skated only on his own before practice last week.
“Brooks is kind of exhausting all options,” Oates said. “He’s feeling better and he just wants to make sure it’s going in the right direction.”
The forward lines at this morning’s practice:
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