We may still be a week from seeing Robin Lehner return to game action, but the Vegas Golden Knights’ goalie is getting close.
Lehner took part in the Golden Knights’ morning skate on Monday, his first action with the team since sustaining an upper-body injury over a month ago.
The goalie, however, will not dress for tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks. Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer said he wants to reintegrate him back into the group. From then on, Lehner will be considered day-to-day.
Marc-Andre Fleury will make his 16th start in 17 games, with Logan Thompson serving as the backup.
“I think Lenny’s getting very close,” said DeBoer. “He’s going to reintegrate with our group this week … and then it’s going to be important. Over the last 25 games it’s going to be important to get that work-to-rest ratio right for our goalies.”
The good thing for the Golden Knights is they haven’t had to rely on their $12 million goaltending tandem. Fleury has carried the load, going 9-5-0 in 14 of the 15 games Lehner has been out. Vegas has also maintained its first-place advantage in the West Division despite the Minnesota Wild two points behind.
Lehner had been on a conditioning loan with AHL Henderson while the Golden Knights were in the middle of their six-game road trip. Vegas is coming off a 5-1 victory at St. Louis on Saturday that capped off their season-long venture at 4-2-0.
Now, the Golden Knights welcome the Sharks to T-Mobile Arena for the first time this season. Vegas won the first three meetings, all in San Jose. Fleury had a 24-save shutout on March 6, his 65th in the NHL.
“It’s just finding energy,” said defenseman Brayden McNabb. “We’ve been playing a lot of hockey lately. It’s our job. We’ve got to be ready, and these points are important.”
Lehner’s eventual return will be fruitful for the Golden Knights. It’s not even just the rest aspect; Fleury went 4-0-0 to begin the season even when splitting time with Lehner. The Golden Knights committed to Lehner for this kind of season; he’ll need to be better than his surface stats (2.96 GAA, .890 save percentage) were in his first five starts, as the Golden Knights continue their playoff push.
Following the two-game set against San Jose, the Golden Knights play four of their next five on the road; a two-game road trip at Los Angeles, followed by a home second game of a back-to-back against the Blues on Monday. Then comes a two-game trip to Colorado.
If we’re looking for a timetable of Lehner’s in-game return, who knows at this point? I’ve been wrong plenty of times in the past couple of weeks regarding this. I’d say the Colorado road trip is more definitive than we’ve seen to this point.
Vegas Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty — Cody Glass — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Alex Tuch — Tomas Nosek — Nicolas Roy
Keegan Kolesar — Patrick Brown — Ryan Reaves
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Brayden McNabb — Dylan Coghlan
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
Stephenson out, Glass in?
It takes all but two seconds to see one drastic change to this lineup.
Chandler Stephenson did not skate in the morning and is a game-time decision, according to DeBoer. With this undisclosed reasoning, there’s a chance Cody Glass could take his place in between Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.
Glass was a healthy scratch Saturday in St. Louis, more so to get a game off for the 21-year-old center who has nine points in 20 games.
“He’s joining a long list of NHL players who, as young guys, sometimes had to take a step back to take two steps forward,” DeBoer said. “I would hope he would take out of it that this is normal, what guys like [Connor] McDavid and those types of players do at young ages is the exception, not the rule.”
If Glass is going to excel, it’ll be with Vegas’ top two offensive players. Glass likely won’t bring the speed that Stephenson has to that line, but his playmaking and IQ as a center can do wonders for Stone and Pacioretty, who have been on a tear in March.
Stone is on a personal six-game point streak (five goals, four assists) in turn to a league-high 14 points in March, whereas Pacioretty has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his last eight games.
Glass had primarily skated on the third line with Alex Tuch and a revolving door of players on the right side.
How to watch San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM