RALEIGH, N.C. | Tomas Kundratek suffered an apparent right leg injury in the first period of the Washington Capitals’ victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night that is expected to cause him to miss at least Saturday’s game at the Boston Bruins.
Kundratek is not traveling with the team to Boston. Instead, he’s set to have an MRI, coach Adam Oates said.
The 23-year-old defenseman suffered the injury about eight minutes into the first period. Karl Alzner hit Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner behind the Caps’ net, and Skinner felt awkwardly onto the lower back part of Kundratek’s leg.
Kundratek was down in pain and had to be helped to the bench by trainer Greg Smith. He did not return, playing just 3:14.
The Caps were forced to roll with just five defensemen for more than two periods for the second time in four games. John Erskine suffered an apparent left hand, wrist or arm injury Saturday at the New York Islanders. Erskine has not played since.
Kundratek figures to miss Saturday’s game in Boston. It’s uncertain whether the Caps will play rookie Cameron Schilling or recall another right-handed defenseman from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.
The most likely option would be Brett Flemming, though Garrett Stafford has seven games of NHL experience. Another possibility would be lefty Dmitry Orlov, who prefers the right side and has played two games since returning from a three-month absence because of a concussion.
Oates quipped about the lack of cell service at the arena level in Raleigh and that he had to call general manager George McPhee to talk about the team’s next move on the blue line.
The Caps are already without Erskine, Mike Green (groin) and Jack Hillen (upper body). It’s uncertain if Green might be able to return to face the Bruins, but it’s unlikely given that he and the Caps want to be careful with his groin injury.
In Kundratek’s absence Thursday night, Steve Oleksy, just signed and called up from Hershey on March 4, played a game-high 27:55.
“I can’t say how proud you are of the guys,” Oates said. “Stevie Oleksy had played almost 30 minutes, man, that’s incredible. Really proud of them all, all of them. They all did a yeoman’s job, in a tough barn, last 10 minutes, PK, everything. They all did a great job.”
Kundratek was impressed Oates and his teammates since being recalled from the Hershey Bears after Jack Hillen’s injury in the Caps’ season opener. Kundratek has one goal and six assists in 25 games.