The Vegas Golden Knights will have defenseman Shea Theodore back in the lineup Tuesday when they face the Colorado Avalanche at T-Mobile Arena.
Theodore missed the past three games with an upper-body injury sustained against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 9. The Golden Knights’ top scoring defenseman (10 points in 10 games) played the second period but he did not return for the third last week.
“I think any time you miss games, you miss being out there,” Theodore said. It’s exciting to get back in the routine.”
Theodore took line rushes with veteran Nick Holden and is expected to skate on the second pair. Alec Martinez remains on the top pair, in place of Brayden McNabb, with Alex Pietrangelo.
After five games in a top-four role, Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud will move back to the third pair.
Dylan Coghlan is back on the Vegas taxi squad.
“Shea helps us in all areas,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “You’re adding a world-class player in your lineup and a guy that can change the game on any given shift.”
Theodore’s absence hasn’t affected the win-loss ledger. The Golden Knights went 2-1-0 without their top-four defenseman; the lone loss coming Thursday, 1-0 against Anaheim.
Where Theodore helps is opening up space on the ice and creating more offense for his teammates. The Golden Knights have scored two goals at 5-on-5 in the past 183:56 of game time; Zach Whitecloud’s winner against Anaheim last Tuesday, and Max Pacioretty’s goal Sunday.
“Given the circumstances, I was pretty proud of our game [Sunday],” DeBoer said. “Six in 10 nights, we ran out of some gas in the third. Bend but didn’t break and got some big saves from [Marc-Andre Fleury]. That’s a very good team there. I thought we went toe-to-toe for big parts of that game under big circumstances.
“I liked a lot of our game, I think we want to replicate it. I’m sure they’re going to be a little better. They were off for two weeks, so they had energy. I’m sure their execution will be better.”
Theodore said he watched Sunday’s game intently, particularly how Martinez and Pietrangelo slowed down Nathan MacKinnon’s line. Pietrangelo was on the ice for 18:10 of MacKinnon’s 22:34, and Martinez for 17:46.
Martinez, normally paired with Theodore, has been on the top pair since the Golden Knights returned from their COVID-19 hiatus. The 33-year-old Martinez has skated with Pietrangelo with Theodore out and has logged over 24 minutes his past five games.
“Him and Petro, I thought, were exceptional the last game against MacKinnon,” DeBoer said. “Marty has that ability. He’s a multi Stanley Cup winner, he’s played in those high-pressured situations against world-class players. I knew when Nabber went out and when Theo went out, when we’d play against Colorado, he’d take that assignment and rise to the occasion, and he did that.”
Theodore and Holden won’t have to focus solely on MacKinnon’s line with Brandon Saad and Mikko Rantanen. In the times they do, Theodore’s speed could help counter that.
“The biggest thing with guys like that is your gap,” Theodore said. “When our forwards are in good spots and obstructing him, flying through the neutral zone, it helps. You’ve just got to know where he is.”
Vegas Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Keegan Kolesar — Cody Glass — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Nicolas Roy — Ryan Reaves
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Nick Holden — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
- Fleury is expected to make his fifth consecutive start. Oscar Dansk is expected to be the backup for the fourth straight game, as Robin Lehner was absent from morning skate.
- Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (upper body) is a game-time decision, coach Jared Bednar said.
- Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog and forward Tyson Jost will return to practice Wednesday and are expected to play Saturday at Lake Tahoe.
Danny Webster covers the Vegas Golden Knights for Vegas Hockey Now. Follow him on Twitter @DannyWebster21.