Tomas Kundratek earned a big-time promotion when Mike Green missed Sunday’s game at the New York Rangers. Then the Washington Capitals defenseman picked up some positive reviews despite an uneven performance.
“He made a couple mistakes, but I thought all-in-all he played great,” coach Adam Oates said. “He’s played good hockey. Real tough environment the other night. New York’s a tough building. When it gets rocking it’s tough, it’s overwhelming. That’s a valuable opportunity for him.”
Kundratek played a career-high 23:35 at the Rangers. That included 2:50 on the power play for the 23-year-old, who’s more known for his skating and offensive potential than his lockdown defense.
Kundratek, who played some penalty kill during his time with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, figures he can learn plenty from Sunday, when he was a top-pair defenseman.
“Oh, definitely,” he said. “[Have] more patience in my D-zone and handle the puck and definitely make better passes and be a little bit more join rush.”
Kundratek wasn’t as stable or poised in his own zone as partner Karl Alzner or a veteran with more NHL experience. But he must be graded on a curve given that he had been a third-pair guy during his first 13 games of the season.
“I’m sure he enjoyed playing the extra minutes and did a great job moving the puck up and getting shots through,” defenseman Jeff Schultz said.
Kundratek was all smiles about the minutes and playing with Alzner.
“It was good. I played a lot of ice time. Felt good out there,” Kundratek said. “It was awesome, definitely obviously, it was great. [Alzner is] a great defenseman and it was good to play with him.”
While Kundratek isn’t adept at marking an opposing player at the side of the net and taking him out of the play, he can make up for mistakes on the rush with his skating abiility.
“Yup, that’s one of his strengths,” Oates said. “But sometimes that also can get you into trouble if you’re skating without thinking. The game’s pretty fast. There’s a lot of guys out there who can skate, especially at this level.”