The Vegas Golden Knights needed to get through this road trip unscathed, and it appears it took all but two games for that to not happen.
Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is returning to Las Vegas for further evaluation on his left arm and will likely miss the remainder of this season-long six-game road trip.
“Obviously not a great sign that he returned home for evaluation,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “I’m not concerned it’s long, long-term, but he’s out for the foreseeable future.”
Pietrangelo left Saturday’s game at San Jose with nearly two minutes remaining after taking a shot from Sharks forward Evander Kane.
Pietrangelo didn’t play Monday in the 2-0 loss to Minnesota, and it appears he won’t be available for the remainder of this road trip. That includes a return to St. Louis this weekend, where Pietrangelo captained the Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019.
Vegas is playing St. Louis in a road back-to-back starting Friday.
The Golden Knights were also without captain Mark Stone on Monday when they had their six-game winning streak end. Stone left Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return.
So, what now, Vegas? Down your top-pairing defenseman, your captain, there has to be some positive news, right?
Enter Robin Lehner and Brayden McNabb.
The Golden Knights assigned Lehner on a conditioning basis to the Henderson Silver Knights, a good sign he’s nearing his return. The hope was that Lehner would join Vegas at the tail-end of the road trip in St. Louis, but more than likely, a return home game next week against the Sharks seems to be the plan.
“Great stuff,” DeBoer said. “Obviously, we’ve been waiting for him. There’s been multiple positive steps along the way to get to this point, but for him to integrate into a full team practice is a big step to getting him back with us.”
Lehner, who signed a five-year, $25 million extension with Vegas in the offseason, has not played since Feb. 7. Fortunately for the Golden Knights, Marc-Andre Fleury has grabbed the Iron Man label once again and ran with it. He’s 8-4-0 in his past 12 starts and has started all but one of the past 13.
Fleury will face Kaapo Kahkonen for the second straight game. The 6-foot-4 Wild goalie pitched a 26-save shutout on Monday for his first NHL donut.
The Golden Knights allowed only one 5-on-5 goal in that 2-0 loss but couldn’t capitalize on three power-play chances.
“I liked our night defensively,” DeBoer said. “We have to find a way to score.”
Brayden McNabb is also a game-time decision and the anticipation is he could return with Dylan Coghlan being assigned to the taxi squad. Where McNabb lines up, however, is the question with Pietrangelo — his usual defense partner — out. Don’t be shocked if Coghlan is paired with Nick Holden yet again, though.
“When a guy’s out, especially a guy like Petro or Nabber, it’s a big hole in our lineup. Those are two key players,” said defenseman Nicolas Hague. “I think, at the end of the day, it’s a group effort. Everyone steps up and tries to fill that void, and I think overall we’ve done a good job.”
Vegas Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Alex Tuch
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Nicolas Roy — Cody Glass — Keegan Kolesar
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
Nick Holden — Dylan Coghlan