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Islanders-Golden Knights game preview: Vegas’ depth being tested

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Zach Whitecloud Vegas Golden Knights defenseman

Health is becoming a major issue for the Vegas Golden Knights. They have lost at least one player in each of their last three games. Not coincidentally, the Golden Knights lost each game as well.

Zach Whitecloud is the latest to go on the shelf as the defenseman blocked a shot with his hand Friday in the second period against the Edmonton Oilers and did not return. Coach Peter DeBoer said Whitecloud is week-to-week.

It means another new face in the lineup and it is testing the team’s overall depth. When the Golden Knights host the New York Islanders tonight at T-Mobile Arena, Daniil Miromanov will be on the ice. It will be the Russian defenseman’s NHL debut.

Can he help the team’s woeful power play? We’ll see. The Golden Knights are already without their top two scorers, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, and Alec Martinez, one of their top defensemen. That trio are part of the first power play unit and with the Knights 0-for-9 so far with the man advantage, the ability to score has been compromised.

That may be even more evident tonight against the Islanders, who are normally among the NHL’s best penalty killing units but are ranked 18th early this season at 78.8%. And while they allowed 15 goals overall in their first five games, 11 of those came in their opening two contests. Since then, they have surrendered just four in their last three games, so they’ve tightened things up in front of goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who has been in net for all five games while Semyon Varlamov remains sidelined.

The Knights saw some encouraging signs in their 5-3 loss to the Oilers Friday. Nicolas Roy had a goal and an assist playing on the line with Chandler Stephenson, Nolan Patrick got his first goal of the year and Nic Hague scored his first. So while the Misfit Line of William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault was kept off the scoresheet, DeBoer was pleased to see his bottom six forwards and his defensemen contributing offensively. 

“We want to get a win,” he said. “We want to put in another solid effort and get a win. We have tough games ahead and we can’t look for a soft spot.”

Three storylines for Sunday:

1. Daniil debuts: With Zach Whitecloud out, rookie Daniil Miromanov will make his NHL debut Sunday. Miromanov had a small taste of the NHL during the preseason but it was an unqualified success as he had three goals in his two games with the Golden Knights.

“It’s been a crazy year,” Miromanov said of a 2021 that began in Russian, went to Henderson for the AHL playoffs with the Silver Knights and then back and forth between the Silver Knights and the Golden Knights. “But it’s exciting to be here. My goal has been to play in the NHL and I’m trying to learn by watching Petry (Alex Pietrangelo) and the other players.”

Miromanov will also get to play with Evgenii Dadonov, who Miromanov says is a hero back in their native Russia. “It will be an honor to play with him,” he said.

This is the first meeting between these teams since Feb. 15, 2000 when the Golden Knights shut out the Islanders 1-0 at T-Mobile Arena. Marc-Andre Fleury was in net that night and stopped 19 shots in recording the shutout.

2. Lehner faces old friends: Robin Lehner is expected to start in goal tonight and it will be an opportunity to renew acquaintances with his old team. Lehner played for the Islanders in 2018-19 and had his best NHL season with 25 wins, a goals-against average of 2.13 and a save percentage of .930. He also won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and the William Jennings Trophy that season. He always mentions that he has fond memories of his time on Long Island.

Lehner has been the starter for all four games for the Golden Knights this season and he has run from hot vs. St. Louis to lukewarm vs. Seattle and Edmonton to cold vs. Los Angeles. No doubt he’ll be fired up to face his former mates.

3. Part 1 of roadie wraps up: The Islanders are playing their sixth game of what is a season-beginning 13-game road trip while the finishing touches are put on their new home, UBS Arena at Belmont Park. The Isles will fly home after tonight’s game, then get five days off before returning to the road for a date in Nashville against the Predators Saturday to begin Part 2, a seven-game stretch, before their home opener Nov. 20 vs. the Calgary Flames.

The Isles are also playing their first back-to-back of the season, having played Saturday in Glendale against the Arizona Coyotes. But they had their full complement of forwards and it showed in the team’s 3-0 win over the ‘Yotes.  

Islanders vs. Golden Knights

  • When: Sunday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
  • TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL Network
  • Radio: 1340-AM, Fox Sports 98.9 FM, Deportes Vegas 1460-AM
  • 2021-22 records: New York 2-2-1; Vegas 1-3
  • 2021 regular season series: Did not play
  • All-time series: Series tied 3-3 
  • Line (from Westgate SuperBook): Vegas -120; Total 5 1/2 Over -105.

Golden Knights projected lineup vs. Islanders

Forwards: Nicolas Roy-Chandler Stephenson-Peyton Krebs

                    Reilly Smith-William Karlsson-Jonathan Marchessault

                    Evgenii Dadonov-Nolan Patrick-Keegan Kolesar

                    Mattias Janmark-Brett Howden-William Carrier

Defense: Nicolas Hague-Alex Pietrangelo

                 Shea Theodore-Daniil Miromanov

                 Brayden McNabb-Dylan Coghlan

Goaltenders: Robin Lehner

                         Laurent Brossoit

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