Hamrlik Helps Break in Kundratek

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

Some 19 years ago, Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik made his NHL debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tonight, the 37-year-old Hamrlik will help break in Washington’s greenest blueliner, 22-year-old Tomas Kundratek. The Caps recalled Kundratek from AHL Hershey on Tuesday night and he will make his NHL debut tonight against the Penguins at Verizon Center with Hamrlik as his partner. “I just met him and I just talked to him briefly before the practice,” says Hamrlik, when asked what advice he’d have for a young kid making his NHL debut. “[I told him] ‘Keep it simple and don’t try too much and make the first quick pass and get some confidence early in the game.’ I do remember my first game; I was so nervous. He’s going to be nervous too, but I’m going to try to help him as much as I can. Short shifts, simple stuff, don’t do too much and communication has to be there, too. Hopefully, I can help him.” Kundratek was the New York Rangers’ third-round choice (90th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. A second-year pro, he found himself buried on the depth chart of the AHL Connecticut Whale early this season, “After the trade I was really excited to be there and they gave me a lot of ice time,” says Kundratek. “Assistant coach [Troy Mann] helped me a lot, gave me a lot of room, showed me some stuff in practice and helped me improve my game. I think I was doing well.” With Kundratek in the lineup tonight, Washington will feature four defensemen with fewer than 200 career games in the NHL. After a couple rugged games on the road, the Caps have to be happy to be opening up their longest homestand of the season to date, a four-game stretch. Washington is 14-5-1 at home this season and it has won six of its last seven in the District. “I don’t know what the difference would be between home and road,” says Caps center Jeff Halpern. “I know these last two games we did a terrible job trying to break the puck out whether it was if they were coming down on us and we needed to get it off the glass and out, or to be able to come out with the puck clean through our own end and have a clean entry or a good dump where we’re putting it in spots where we are the first ones to get it back. A lot of that stuff builds up and we did a terrible job of giving ourselves a chance to recover pucks in their end.” Although the Penguins are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings and the Capitals are 10th, and although both sides will be missing some key performers tonight, this is still the Capitals and the Penguins. “The match-up and the rivalry is definitely still there,” says Halpern. “It probably has a different feel from years past where this team and Pittsburgh were tops in the conference and it was almost a showcase or a precursor of what could happen in the playoffs. Now, it’s two teams that should be pretty hungry for a playoff spot and that are fighting for a playoff spot. It’s a huge game for us.”

next up:

Second Half Has Been Kinder to Caps

January 14, 2013

It seems like the first half of the Caps’ 2011-12 season was actually a couple of seasons. Washington roared out of the gate with a 7-0 start, becoming just the 10th team in NHL history to win each of its first seven games of the season. But just 37 days after that seventh straight win, the

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