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Golden Knights Gameday: Pietrangelo, VGK Prepare to Face Blues

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NHL rumors, St. Louis Blues UFA Alex Pietrangelo to Vegas Golden Knights

Alex Pietrangelo faces his former team for the first time as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights as they host the St. Louis Blues for the first of a pair of games at T-Mobile Arena.

Pietrangelo hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Blues just two seasons ago before coming to the Golden Knights via free agency this summer. Now he faces his former team for the first time.

Vegas Golden Knights (5-1-0) vs. St. Louis Blues (3-2-1)

The Vegas Golden Knights lead the Honda West Division with 10 points, having won five of its first six games. Last time out Vegas beat the Arizona Coyotes 1-0 on a late goal from William Karlsson with just 43 seconds left in regulation time. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 16 shots for his 62nd career shutout.

St. Louis has been very up-and-down this season, splitting each two-game series the team has played so far. Most recently the Blues dropped a 6-3 game to the Los Angeles Kings. After the Blues went up 1-0, they allowed five straight goals against and couldn’t dig out of the hole. Brayden Schenn scored twice and leads the team with four goals on the season.

Scoring has come in fits and starts for the Blues, who have four goals in the team’s three losses but 13 goals in its three wins. After Schenn’s four goals, no player has more than two to his credit this season. The Blues also have the second-worst power play in the league coming into tonight.

Keep An Eye On

VGK – Alex Pietrangelo. The big free agent acquisition has had a slow start to the season with the Vegas Golden Knights, with only three points in his first six games. That said, expect Pietrangelo to come to life against his former club and put on a show tonight. Plus, Vegas could really use more offense no matter where it comes from. Pietrangelo has been generating some scoring chances but just hasn’t cashed in. Perhaps he’s due tonight.

STL – Jordan Kyrou. The former AHL All-Star is finally getting a shot at regular duty with the Blues and is performing admirably. His six points (2-4-6) leads the team this season. Despite being a natural center, Kyrou has found a home next to Schenn and both players seem to feed off each other creatively. Vegas will have to watch this line closely.

Notes:

Vegas Golden Knights

  • Alex Pietrangelo spent his first 10 full NHL seasons with the Blues. St. Louis originally drafted him fourth overall in 2008. He scored the game-winning goal against Boston in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final, and ranks second among Blues defensemen lifetime in games played (758) and points (450).
  • Vegas continue to struggle on the power play. The Golden Knights are tied for 26th (2-20) in the NHL with the Nashville Predators.
  • Mark Stone’s five-game point streak came to an end in the win against Arizona. During the streak Stone scored twice and added six assists.
  • Shea Theodore is tied for third in scoring among defensemen with 3-3-6 in six games.

St. Louis Blues

  • The Blues luck against Vegas has not been great in Sin City, going 1-0-4 in five tries. Oddly enough, the four losses have all happened in overtime and no game has gone to a shootout.
  • The Blues have recorded at least a point in all nine games against the Golden Knights in franchise history.
  • Brayden Schenn is carrying a four-game point streak into tonight’s game (3-1-4).

 

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Allure of Lake Tahoe not masking importance of Golden Knights facing Avalanche

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Vegas Golden Knights Colorado Avalanche Lake Tahoe
Courtesy: NHL

Beyond the rose-colored glasses that envelop Lake Tahoe’s beauty will be an important hockey game Saturday for the Vegas Golden Knights.

It’s supposed to be a historic moment for this 4-year-old franchise, playing in an outdoor game. The Golden Knights’ first time on the marquee for such an event doesn’t come inside a stadium nor a ballpark, but a frozen pond off the 18th fairway of Edgewood Golf Course in Stateline, Nevada.

It’s going to be a sight to behold. It will also be the most important game the Golden Knights have played in this condensed season.

“For sure, we want to enjoy it. We want to enjoy the experience,” said Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer. “Part of the message is going to enjoy this. At the same time, the points are critical, and I know the other team is going to play for keeps. There’s a fine line between enjoying the experience but being ready at game time.”

The Golden Knights will try to rebound from Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at T-Mobile Arena. Vegas rallied twice to tie the game, but Nazem Kadri’s goal with less than a minute to go thwarted the Golden Knights’ chances of at least a point.

Saturday is the third meeting of a four-game slate between the two teams. Vegas is four points clear on Colorado, but the Avalanche — fresh off a five-game postponement due to COVID-19 protocol — has a game in hand.

Points percentage-wise, the Golden Knights still have a comfortable hold on first place, but the Avalanche are bringing reinforcements to Tahoe.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog and forward Tyson Jost were removed from COVID protocol and are practicing with the Avalanche. Young defenseman and Norris favorite Cale Makar (upper body) is also expected back after missing the past two games.

DeBoer said in a game like this, less will be more. Weather calls for 38 degrees and partly cloudy skies. It doesn’t look like precipitation will be a factor.

Wind, however, absolutely could.

“I think absolutely less is more,” DeBoer said. “We’ll get a chance to practice on the ice surface tomorrow and get a feel. Hopefully, we won’t have to change much. The NHL always does a great job with these facilities.”

This game will be important for the Golden Knights, but will also bring back memories of childhood past. A lot of the Golden Knights players grew up with frozen ponds in every other backyard or on every block.

“From September to May, I was on the outdoor rink having fun,” said defenseman Nick Holden. “When I think of growing up during the winter months, it’d be I come home from school and play on the rink.”

It’s going to be a sight to behold, watching the Golden Knights skate near a golf course on national TV. Hopefully, one day, this will turn into a much grander scale at Allegiant Stadium, or something of the like.

For a COVID-ravaged situation, this is the next best thing, even with no fans watching live.

Lehner not traveling

DeBoer said Thursday he doesn’t expect goalie Robin Lehner to make the trip to Tahoe, almost assuring Marc-Andre Fleury will make his sixth consecutive start.

“I don’t expect him to travel,” DeBoer said, “but improving every day and I expect him back sooner than later.”

Lehner has been out since Feb. 11 with an upper-body injury, going away from the rotation that Vegas used to begin the season. Fleury has filled in well in Lehner’s absence, going 2-2-0 and allowing only five goals to the tune of a .954 save percentage.

Unless anything drastic happens between now and Saturday, expect Fleury to face Philipp Grubauer for the third straight game, and likely with the series finale on Monday in Denver.

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Tom's Daily

Tom’s Daily: Fleury Has Big Week; VGK Fans at 20%; more

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Marc-Andre Fleury trade VGK Vegas Golden Knights

Tom’s Daily: Lots of Marc-Andre Fleury today – Tom Callahan says declare him the starter; Danny Webster makes the case for the Vezina Trophy; Fleury named NHL Second Star of the Week; ; World’s Longest Hockey Game; more.

Marc-Andre Fleury

He gets his own headline today. We here at VHN make no bones about how important Marc-Andre Fleury is to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Tom Callahan says it’s time to cut the crap and call Fleury the team’s starting goalie.

Danny Webster lays out the case for Fleury adding more hardware to his trophy case in the form of the 2021 Vezina Trophy.

Marc-Andre Fleury named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week. (VHN)

VGK

The Vegas Golden Knights have submitted a plan for 20 percent capacity at games as the state opens up. (News3LV)

Patrick Brown and Logan Thompson have been assigned to the Henderson Silver Knights. (NHL.com)

NHL

The latest on the NHL’s COVID-19 situation. (ESPN.com)

Alex Galchenyuk is on the move again, this time to the Toronto Maple Leafs. (NHL.com)

Hockeyverse

The World’s Longest Hockey Game has raised $1.8M for cancer research. (NBC Sports)

Acton-Boxboro Girls Hockey season (Tom Barrasso’s alma mater) ends abruptly due to COVID-19. (CBS Boston)

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Stop The Charade: Marc-Andre Fleury is Vegas #1

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Marc-Andre Fleury Vegas Golden Knights

For whatever reason, from the moment Pete DeBoer was named head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury fell out of favor. It was clear DeBoer didn’t think the veteran netminder was enough to get the Golden Knights over the top, and a late season trade for Robin Lehner doubled down on that idea.

I don’t agree now, and I didn’t agree then. Acquiring Lehner gave the team depth in net which I believe is necessary for any team to make a run at the Stanley Cup. Then GM Kelly McCrimmon gave Lehner a five-year, $5M AAV contract that boggled my mind because of how it left the team in cap hell and also gave Lehner the starting job based on three regular-season games and an ok playoffs.

It also created a situation where the entire league knew you would want to move your former starter with two years remaining at $7M AAV. No one was going to stretch themselves to help what is already one of the best teams in the leauge, making Fleury as immovable as the VGK’s early demands.

While I could go on about how I think Lehner’s current contract is a hastily-made mistake of a signing, that’s not the issue here. Lehner has been bad this season, and now he’s hurt. McCrimmon and DeBoer are lucky they fanned on moving Fleury.

Marc-Andre Fleury has been thrust back into the starting role and is seizing the reins with aplomb.

The early-season rotation between Fleury and Lehner clearly showed Fleury was the better goalie. No matter if you went eye test or fancy stats, Fleury was better. It could be tempting to let Lehner continue on in the rotation or even start several consecutive games to break out of the slump now instead of later, but his injury has rendered that point thankfully moot.

Until he shows he’s no longer capable, Fleury deserves to be the starting goaltender for the Vegas Golden Knights by any standard of measure. His teammates love him, they clearly have enthusiasm playing in front of him. I would even call it joy. Fleury’s teammates want to play hard for him because he plays hard for them.

Age a factor? It doesn’t look that way. Even though Fleury’s on the wrong side of 35, he’s still in top shape, is tracking the puck better than ever (Lehner has had major struggles with this so far), and has an amazing ability to keep his head in the game even when his workload is light. All things elite goalies do every game.

Let me tell you everything I need to know about Marc-Andre Fleury and how much he means as a leader and teammate by way of a simple training camp observation.

Maybe you noticed. Maybe you didn’t. During camp this year, the young goalies flocked to Fleury. He would engage them, talking to them and helping them out when he could. Clearly he was invested in them when as the greybeard, he doesn’t have to be. He could just give them a nod or a tap on the pads. He could even just ignore them and prepare for the season. But that’s not who he is. Fleury is the guy who grooms the players who will eventually take his job because that’s what it means to him as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.

I’m not saying Lehner was horrible to the youngsters. His body language suggests that he just wanted to do his own thing during camp and that’s just fine. He exchanged the customary taps and gestures when the situations called for it. But to compare the two is no comparison at all. Fleury is the guy you want in all situations.

On top of that, Fleury has come into this season with a fire lit under him. He has been nothing short of his best self on the ice, fighting for every puck and leading by his hustle and heart. You don’t have to be in the room to see how excited the team was to mob him off the bench after Sunday’s shutout. Go back and look at the celebration. It’s very clear what the situation is for the Vegas Golden Knights.

To his credit, DeBoer seems to have softened on his initial rejection of Fleury, partially out of necessity as Lehner isn’t available right now. But DeBoer did start the season with a clear rotation instead of just handing the reins to Lehner. Was that forced by Fleury’s salary? Maybe something about Lehner coming out of camp didn’t seem 100% right? Was there still concern about his shoulder surgery? Could be none of those. Could be all of them.

Whatever the case, if Lehner returns and the team goes back to a rotation, that would be a major mistake. I also believe it would cause murmurs in the locker room which is never good. The Vegas Golden Knights coaching staff and front office has to stand behind Marc-Andre Fleury as its starter until his play shows otherwise.

To do otherwise is to proceed at your own peril.

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