The reintegration of Robin Lehner into the Vegas Golden Knights lineup could be sooner than we thought.
Lehner revealed that a concussion is the reason why the goalie has been out of the lineup for the past month-and-a-half. He’s been taking part in morning skate the past few days, and Pete DeBoer said he is a game-time decision.
“You can feel good one day, or feel good in the morning and it comes back at night,” Lehner said. “It’s a very frustrating injury you have to deal with. On the positive side, the league has gotten a lot better with them, and this team has been great. We’ve been doing all the right things, and they’ve given me all the tools necessary to have a safe, speedy recovery.”
It’s not a certainty that Lehner will be available tonight against the San Jose Sharks, but he did follow Marc-Andre Fleury off the ice at morning skate while Oscar Dansk remained with the rest of the team. Lehner has not made an appearance since Feb. 9 and has not started since Feb. 7.
Lehner said this was his third concussion, first since his days in Ottawa. What was once considered a “tweak” at the beginning of it turned into an episode that saw Fleury start 16 of the next 17 games for the Golden Knights.
The goalie, who signed a five-year, $25 million extension with Vegas in the offseason after being acquired in a trade with Chicago last February, is 3-1-1 in five starts this season.
“I feel ready, but whenever the team needs me to play, I’ll do my best and get back to where I need to be to help the team win,” Lehner said. “I couldn’t follow the team much in the beginning, but the last couple of weeks, we’ve played great. Flower’s been amazing, and it’s good to see our team having success.”
It’s a rarity for players to reveal they’ve suffered a concussion unless it’s blatant. Look back to 2017 when Fleury was concussed four games into the Golden Knights’ inaugural season, and that turned into a two-month process.
Lehner felt it was important to make it known that a concussion was the reasoning behind his absence. There was speculation from the outside, and none coming from this site, that Lehner wasn’t actually injured.
“Everyone deals with [mental health], I don’t care what anyone says. Everyone deals with it at some form or another during their life. Right now during COVID, a lot of people do,” Lehner said. “That’s also why the stigma is hard for the progress of people getting better, because people have to hide it before people talk and say these things. I think I should get the benefit of the doubt because I’ve been honest with it.
“If I had those issues again, which are not happening, I would be honest about it. It’s unfortunate because mental health problems are no different than a knee problem or a shoulder problem, or something like that. It’s treatable, except the stigma.”
Nevertheless, it will be good for the Golden Knights to have their elite goalie tandem back, if in fact it’s tonight against the rival Sharks.
The Golden Knights are looking for their fourth consecutive win and extend their lead in the West Division. The Minnesota Wild are still two points behind after a 3-0 victory Tuesday against Arizona.
“I think he’s ready to reintegrate and back up, and start to play here real soon,” DeBoer said. “There are logistics with long-term injuries that aren’t in my department that goes into some of that, but he’s real close.”
There could be challenges along the way for Vegas. Alex Tuch and Chandler Stephenson are game-time decisions with undisclosed injuries. Cody Glass replaced Stephenson as top-line center on Monday, but where Tuch slides in is a question mark.
As to who replaces Tuch, that throws a wrench into the momentum the third line generated Monday. That group of Tuch, Tomas Nosek and Nicolas Roy was by far the best trio in terms of possession (21-12). Only thing they didn’t do was score.
Tomas Jurco could be an option to replace Tuch if he can’t go. With William Carrier likely returning, it could be Keegan Kolesar with Nosek and Roy. Patrick Brown could center the fourth line for the fourth consecutive game.
Vegas Golden Knights projected lineup
Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty — Cody Glass — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Keegan Kolesar — Tomas Nosek — Nicolas Roy
William Carrier — Patrick Brown — Ryan Reaves
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Brayden McNabb — Dylan Coghlan
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud