Despite the massive amount of NHL games that have been postponed due to COVID-19 over the past week, the Vegas Golden Knights (20-11) are still set to play the Tampa Bay Lightning (19-6-4) on Tuesday.
The NHL has already postponed 50 games so far this season with 45 of those coming in the past eight days.
The NHL will go on pause starting tomorrow, Wednesday, December 22nd and will run until after December 26th when players will return to their teams. This means that the Golden Knight’s Thursday game against the Los Angeles Kings has been postponed.
“We don’t really know what is going on but we just plan on playing our game tonight,” said Golden Knights forward William Carrier.
The Tampa Bay Lightning currently do not have any players or members of the team in COVID-19 protocols. Steven Stamkos, the captain of the Lightning, confirmed that the majority of players on the team have the booster shot as well.
For the Golden Knights, Evgenii Dadonov and Alex Pietrangelo have been placed in COVID-19 protocols. Despite this Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer is confident that Tuesday’s game will happen. Mark Stone is expected to return to the Golden Knights lineup after missing last game with an injury.
“I can’t speak on Tampa’s end. I know we’ll have 20 guys available to play based on what I know right now. We’re hoping the same for Tampa,” said DeBoer after the morning skate.
Keys to the game
Focus on the game- Not COVID
While the threat of COVID-19 is still out and about in the world, the Golden Knights will have to push aside the outside chatter and focus on the game itself. Every team in the NHL has had to deal with COVID-19 in some way or another and the NHL has already announced that they will not postpone the current season.
“It has been an unfortunate and unusual situation. We feel that our team is pretty healthy right now so we definitely want to keep going an right now we are here, we prepared all morning and we just want to get it over with,” said Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault.
The Golden Knights have won eight of their last nine games and are now at the top of the Western Conference Standings. It may not be the best way to do it, but with other teams in the NHL having their games postponed, the Golden Knights can move up to be tied for second in the NHL’s standings with a win Tuesday night.
Leave it All Out There- A Big Break is Coming
If all things stay as planned, the Golden Knight’s next game will be on Monday, December 27th against the Colorado Avalanche. This means the team will have five straight days of rest in between their two games.
While the Golden Knights have a great deal of momentum winning eight of their last nine, and on a five-game winning streak, William Carrier says that a break is much needed.
“We will definitely take the rest. Our bodies have been kind of beat up here a little bit. We have been playing a lot of games those road games and definitely playing against some good teams so we are looking forwards to our rest but we still have a big battle to win,” said Carrier.
The Golden Knights are expected to get Nolan Patrick and Alec Martinez back soon and five days can go a long way in this process. Golden Knight’s head coach Peter DeBoer expects Martinez to be back after Christmas.
As for Patrick, he shed his no-contact jersey during Tuesday’s morning skate for the first time in what feels like an eternity. He is not expected to play Tuesday night but could return around the same time as Martinez after Christmas.
“We’re talking about getting him back on the ice after Christmas,” said DeBoer.
For the Golden Knights, having a five-day break on the horizon allows the team to leave it all out on the ice. With the added benefit of getting a jump in the standings on teams that are currently not playing, expect the Golden Knights to play a hard-fought game Tuesday night.
Watch and Learn from the Lightning
If there is one team in the NHL that knows how to persevere through COVID-19 shortened seasons and game postponements it is the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have won back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships in 2020 and 2021, both years in which the NHL has dealt with COVID-19 issues.
Depth is a huge part of the Lightning’s success as they have frequently been without some of their top players. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point will not play Tuesday night. But the Lightning have had a tremendous amount of success with under-the-radar players. Ross Colton and former Erie Otter Taylor Raddysh are examples of young guys that have stepped up for the Lightning this season.
“Hopefully we play, honestly. It will be a good game if we play, they’ve been really good for the last few years, obviously and it would be a good challenge for us right now,” said Marchessault.
For the Golden Knights, who wish to be in the shoes as back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions, this will be a great test for the team against a top opponent in the NHL. And maybe, just maybe, these could be the two teams we see in the Stanley Cup Final in the Spring.
PROJECTED VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS LINES
Max Pacioretty- Chandler Stephenson- Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault- William Karlsson- Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark- Nicolas Roy- Keegan Kolesar
William Carrier- Brett Howden- Michael Amadio
Nicolas Hague– Zach Whitecloud
Shea Theodore- Dylan Coghlan
Brayden McNabb- Ben Hutton
Laurent Brossoit/Robin Lehner
Vegas Golden Knights Special Teams
Special Teams: 18.42% Powerplay (18th) and 77.53% Penalty Kill (24th)
PP1: Dadonov, Stephenson, Dadonov, Theodore, Pacioretty
PP2: Roy, Karlsson, Smith, Marchessault, Pietrangelo
PK1: Stephenson, Janmark, McNabb, Pietrangelo
PK2: Howden, Kolesar, Hague, Whitecloud
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols
Jack Eichel, Nolan Patrick, Alec Martinez, Mark Stone
PROJECTED TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING LINES PER PUCKPEDIA
Ondrej Palat- Steven Stamkos- Mathieu Joseph
Alex Killorn- Ross Colton- Anthony Cirelli
Patrick Maroon- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare- Corey Perry
Boris Katchuk- Riley Nash- Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman- Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh- Zach Bogosian
Mikhail Sergachev- Cal Foote
Andrei Vasilevskiy/Brian Elliott
Tampa Bay Lightning Special Teams
17.98% Powerplay (20th) and 79.76% Penalty Kill (19th)
PP1: Killorn, Raddysh, Palat, Stamkos, Hedman
PP2: Maroon, Colton, Perry, Cirelli, Sergachev
PK1: Cirelli, Killorn, Sergachev, McDonagh
PK2: Bellemare, Joseph, Rutta, Hedman
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols
Nikita Kucherov, Brent Seabrook, Brayden Point, Erik Cernak
How to Watch/Listen: 7:00 pm on ESPN+ and Fox Sports 98.9 FM.