The Vegas Golden Knights (23-13-1) take on the Chicago Blackhawks (11-18-5) for the first time this season Saturday night. Everyone’s eyes will be on Marc-Andre Fleury, who is making his return to T-Mobile Arena for the first time since being traded to the Blackhawks by the Golden Knights this offseason.
Fleury spent four seasons with the Golden Knights and was the face of the franchise ever since he was selected in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. He led the Golden Knights all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2018 and also won both the Vezina Trophy and Jennings Trophy last season. On top of it all, his bubbly personality has and still does make him one of the most beloved players in the entire National Hockey League.
“Him (Gerard Gallant) and Flower (Fleury) were probably the hearts of our organization hearts of our organization for quite a bit here at the start,” said original Golden Knight Jonathan Marchessault.
Fleury will look down the ice and see his former teammate in Robin Lehner tending the net for the Golden Knights. Lehner was brought in by the Golden Knights in February of 2020 and has since taken over the starting goaltender role with Fleury’s departure. No other lineup changes are expected by the Golden Knights.
Keys to the Game
Push Emotions Aside; It’s Just Another Game
While the return of Fleury will no doubt be a massive event for the fans and Fleury himself alike, at the end of the day there is a game to be played. Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer sees this game as the Vegas Golden Knights versus the Chicago Blackhawks, not Marc-Andre Fleury versus his former team.
For me this isn’t a tennis match against Flower (Marc-Andre Fleury) this is the Golden Knights against the Blackhawks. They’ve got a good team. They are coming off a tough loss and they’re going to be motivated. We’ve got to bring the same mindset and level of respect to the game tonight that we brought the other night because that was one of our most complete games,” said DeBoer.
The last time Fleury returned to one of his former teams was on February 8th, 2018 when he returned to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins. Fleury and the Golden Knights ended up losing that game with two-time Stanley Cup Champion Phil Kessel scoring the game-winning goal. Perhaps the Golden Knights can take advantage of Fleury’s emotions on his return and get the victory tonight at T-Mobile Arena.
Play Better in Front of Lehner Than CHI Does in Front of Fleury
While Marc-Andre Fleury is no doubt a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Famer things have not been the best for him this season in Chicago. The 37-year old goaltender has just nine wins in 22 games played and is averaging 3.01 goals-against average this season. A big part of this stems from the Chicago Blackhawks’ weak defensive structure this season.
While this battle may be highlighted as Lehner vs Fleury, the reality of the matter is that this is a team game and the Golden Knights have a prime opportunity to play better in front of Lehner to get the win tonight.
PROJECTED VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS LINE COMBINATIONS
Evgenii Dadonov- Chandler Stephenson- Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault- William Karlsson– Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark- Nicolas Roy- Keegan Kolesar
William Carrier- Brett Howden- Nolan Patrick
Brayden McNabb- Alex Pietrangelo
Shea Theodore– Zach Whitecloud
Ben Hutton- Dylan Coghlan
Robin Lehner/Logan Thompson
Vegas Golden Knights Special Teams
Special Teams: 18.95% Powerplay (17th) and 77.45% Penalty Kill (23rd)
PP1: Roy, Karlsson, Smith, Marchessault, Pietrangelo
PP2: Patrick, Stephenson, Dadonov, Stone, Theodore
PK1: Stephenson, Janmark, McNabb, Whitecloud
PK2: Karlsson, Smith, Hutton, Pietrangelo
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols
Jack Eichel, Max Pacioretty, Alec Martinez, Laurent Brossoit, Nicolas Hague
Adam Brooks, Michael Amadio
Projected Chicago Blackhawks Line Combinations
Dominik Kubalik- Jonathan Toews- Patrick Kane
Alex DeBrincat- Dylan Strome- Brett Connolly
Philipp Kurashev- Kirby Dach- Mackenzie Entwistle
Jujhar Khaira- Henrik Borgstrom- Ryan Carpenter
Jake McCabe- Seth Jones
Calvin de Haan- Connor Murphy
Caleb Jones- Riley Stillman
Marc-Andre Fleury/Arvid Soderblom
Chicago Blackhawks Special Teams
18.92% Powerplay (18th) and 74.76% % Penalty Kill (26th)
PP1: Dach, Strome, Kane, DeBrincat, S. Jones
PP2: Borgstrom, Toews, Kurashev, Kubalik, C. Jones
PK1: Toews, Carpenter, McCabe, Jones
PK2: Dach, Hagel, de Haan, Murphy
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols
Tyler Johnson, Reese Johnson, Kevin Lankinen