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Conference Final

Kempny adjusting to role with Capitals in Eastern Conference Final

Defenseman acquired from Blackhawks scored first playoff goal in Game 1 win against Lightning

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

For Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny, it just took a little time.

When the Capitals acquired Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 19 in a trade for a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Kempny had to adjust quickly to a team that was looking to shore up the left side of its defense.

"When I came here, it was new teammates, new organization, everything was new," Kempny said. "But I felt more and more comfortable every day, and now everything's OK here."

It's more than OK. Kempny has given the Capitals steady performances and scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal in a 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Friday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is at Tampa Bay on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN).

"He's just one of those players that is effective; efficient, effective, gets it done," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "You're not going to see a lot of offense. He's got some great looks, though. You talk about a guy who's developing maybe from more of a stay-at-home type of defenseman to a guy who recognizes opportunity, and he's jumped in some great holes and had some great looks but just hasn't finished on them or got some good saves or what have you or blocks."

It's a big difference from Kempny's time in Chicago. The Blackhawks had eight defensemen for at least half of the season and Kempny couldn't find a consistent role. The 27-year-old had seven points (one goal, six assists) in 31 games and was a healthy scratch 27 times.

Video: WSH@TBL, Gm1: Kempny snaps one through traffic

In Washington, Kempny filled a need. The Capitals were looking for a left-handed defenseman to pair with John Carlson. Christian Djoos and Brooks Orpik got an opportunity there, but Kempny was the right fit. He had three points (two goals, one assist) in 22 regular-season games and has two points in 13 playoff games.

Kempny was new to the NHL when the Blackhawks signed him to a one-year contract May 24, 2016, but played two full seasons of professional hockey with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Republic elite league and one season with Avangard Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. Trotz said that background helped Kempny adjust to the Capitals.

"He's a little more veteran, probably because he's played at a pretty high level overseas and in Chicago's organization," Trotz said. "He's got such a professionalism about it. He's a high-quality pro. He's very learned in terms of changing his style from the way Chicago plays in certain situations to how we play him. He just fit in.

"He has a great personality, the quiet bit of soft humor, if you will, but very professional and very diligent on every aspect. How he trains, rests, eats, carries himself, he's as good as anybody we've ever had. You fit in seamlessly because you're a good player. He's a good player."

Kempny was looking for a consistent opportunity and has gotten it with the Capitals.

"I have a chance to play in the NHL playoffs and it's something big for me," said Kempny, who played one playoff game with the Blackhawks last season. "I enjoy every day, every game, and it's a lot of fun. It's a lot of hockey and I really enjoy it. My situation the last couple of weeks or months in Chicago was really tough for me. But things change, and now I'm here and I'm happy."

NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti contributed to thsi report.

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