PITTSBURGH | At first look, it seemed like a recipe for disaster, young defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Tomas Kundratek paired together. It was like that for the Washington Capitals’ game Friday night at the Carolina Hurricanes, again at practice Saturday and could be for Sunday’s showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But even though the 20-year-old Orlov and 21-year-old Kundratek combine for just 33 games of NHL experience, it didn’t work out too badly at Carolina, and coach Dale Hunter might have reason to keep them together.
“They’re young guys and they can feed off each other. They did a pretty good job, [Friday] night, I thought,” Hunter said. “We watched the game today and they didn’t make many mistakes and they moved the puck pretty well. But they’re still just young guys and it’s a learning process.”
Kundratek had a similarly positive review, though he was willing to nitpick.
“There were little mistakes what we made, but we’ll try to work on it and get better,” he said. “Just maybe move the puck a little bit more quicker and a little bit more talk. I think that’s about it – play more physical.”
Be dependable is what the Caps need out of Orlov and Kundratek. Basically, don’t get lit up and cost goals. There were turnovers at the Hurricanes, but more experienced defensemen were the ones making the major mistakes. John Carlson had a brutal turnover that led to a goal, and those kinds of errors really can’t happen against Pittsburgh.
“We have to stop do the turnovers and we have to move the puck well and we have to move our feet,” Kundratek said. “We’ll see how we will work.”
Though he played just 10:10 as the No. 6 defenseman Friday, Kundratek was happy with the ice time and just the chance to contribute in the NHL.
That limited ice time (and Orlov’s 16:48) was by design, as the Caps’ staff tried to make sure the young defensemen didn’t get exposed. Expect that them to continue Sunday afternoon.
“They’re young guys, and we try to get the better matchups for them that they’re not going against the [Evgeni] Malkins or something because it’s more chance of making a mistake then,” Hunter said. “There’s no fear to their game and they go in the corners and they work hard and you see them. If you do that, if you’re not afraid on the ice, you’re going to have success.
“It’s just proper decisions with the puck is what we worry about all the time.”