News and notes as the Caps prepare for the final two games of their exhibition schedule – Friday night at home against the Flyers and Saturday night in Chicago against the Blackhawks:
Kundratek clears: Defenseman Tomas Kundratek went unclaimed on NHL waivers and has been assigned to the AHL Hershey Bears. Kundratek has two years remaining on a contract that pays him $550,000 at the NHL level and $65,000 at the AHL level.
“He’s gotta survive this hiccup and play good down there and wait his turn again,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “His skating is one of his best attributes, but the NHL is fast.
“When he was here he didn’t rely on that, he just played. When he goes down there, he gets a little cocky with his skating and tries to do too much, thinking he’s invincible and you put yourself out of position. He has to stay within the boundaries of the system.”
With Kundratek in Hershey the Caps continue to carry four extra defensemen and there is a growing possibility that Tyson Strachan my find his way onto the opening night roster as a seventh defenseman, ahead of Dmitry Orlov and Connor Carrick.
Strachan, 28, played in 38 games for the Florida Panthers last season, recording four assists and 40 penalty minutes. He was signed to a one-year, two-way contract by the Caps, carrying a cap hit of $550,000 and an AHL salary of $225,000.
Strachan has a right-handed shot and stands 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.
Brooks Laich update: Laich [tightness in left hip] refrained from skating for the second straight day on Thursday and will not play against Philadelphia on Friday night.
“He could have maybe skated today, but he talked to me and said, ‘Give me one more day,’” Oates said. “And I said, ‘No problem.’”
Oates said Laich might play in Chicago but sees Tuesday night’s opener as a “legitimate” goal.
Babe watch: Caps center Nicklas Backstrom is awaiting the birth of his first child. His girlfriend has a due date of Oct. 6. “It could be any day or any week,” he said. “I’m more excited than nervous.”
The Capitals have games scheduled for Oct. 1 [in Chicago], Oct. 3 [home vs. Calgary] and Oct. 5 [in Dallas] before a four-day break that has them back at VerizonCenter on Oct. 10.
Oates said attending the birth of a child is a decision he leaves up to his players. Late last season defenseman Jack Hillen missed the birth of his second child, a son named Knox, because the Caps had a game in Florida.
“I don’t want [Backstrom’s girlfriend] calling me, so yeah,” Oates said. “It’s another situation where our team should be able to survive it. If it was the last game of the season and we needed to win that game, I would hope he would change his mind. We need him.”
Told he would probably still get a phone call from an expectant mother looking for her husband, Oates quipped, “I’ll take that call.”