Kempny's game is looking up
Michal Kempny's return to the Blackhawks lineup has been wildly successful as he scored in back-to-back games at Carolina last Friday and at St. Louis on Monday.
The problem is the Hawks lost both of those contests. So if you think the rookie defenseman was glowing about his 2 goals, think again.
"Obviously I scored a couple goals, but unfortunately it wasn't in a win, and I'm trying to help my team to win," Kempny said through a translator in a rare interview with reporters before the Hawks played Buffalo on Thursday at the United Center. "So I hope today is going to turn."
It did indeed turn as the Hawks beat the Sabres 4-3 in overtime, with Kempny registering an assist on Artem Anisimov's second-period goal that tied the game at 2-2.
Like Gustav Forsling, Michal Rozsival and more recently Brian Campbell, Kempny is fighting for ice time on a team that is carrying eight defensemen. He played in 22 of the first 27 games, but sat in 9 of the next 10.
"It wasn't easy," said Kempny, who has now played in four straight. "But you do have to think positive, stay positive. Every practice for me was like a game. I was trying to work out on the ice and in the gym waiting for the game to come."
Kempny came to the Hawks last May after playing in his native Czech Republic from 2009-15 and spending last year in the KHL. The 26-year-old is on a one-year deal that pays him $700,000, and he'll be a restricted free agent at season's end.
The 6-foot, 194-pound Kempny can speak some English. He said communicating on the ice isn't a problem and he does try to talk to teammates and coaches off the ice as well.
"I try to have conversations off ice, watching TV, listening to conversations," Kempny said. "I try to avoid saying something silly. But yeah, I'm working on it."
Just like he's working on a game that seems to be improving of late.
"He's coming off a couple strong games for us and he adds some speed on the back end as well," said coach Joel Quenneville.
Campbell sits again:
Defenseman Brian Campbell, who did not play against the Sabres on Thursday, was a healthy scratch for the second time in four games.
"It's obviously a little different. But I'm still enjoying it; still having fun," said Campbell, who had played in 423 straight games before sitting out the Hawks' 3-2 win at Nashville on Dec. 29. "That's the main thing is just go out there, work hard and be ready. I still feel like I've got a lot left in me."
Coach Joel Quenneville said he'd like to see Campbell, who has 1 goal and 2 assists in his last 24 games, more involved offensively.
"Our defensive corps, when we're part of the attack we're so much better in our 5-on-5 game," Quenneville said. "We don't have to defend as much.
"That's why this year we're probably not as effective or managing the puck as much as we had. We want our D more involved. Soupy's probably as active as anybody. But I just think across the board when he's doing it, it complements his whole game."
Ryan Hartman, who took just 1 penalty in his first 24 games, has been whistled for 6 infractions in the last 12 games. "Some are preventing goals," Hartman said. "Obviously you don't want to take them, but it happens throughout the game. It's something I need to pull back on." ... Artem Anisimov, who scored twice Thursday, is tied for seventh in the NHL with 18 goals. ... Duncan Keith recorded the 400th assist of his career in the Hawks' win over Buffalo, tying him with Pierre Pilote for seventh-most in franchise history. ... Patrick Kane tied his season high with 7 shots on goal and Vinnie Hinostroza took a career-high 5 SOG against Buffalo.