Family comes first for Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Due to personal reasons, the veteran Stanley Cup Champion and father of four has missed the Golden Knights last two games. We hope all is well with the Pietrangelo family.
In his absence from the team, the Golden Knights have struggled immensely on defense. They have blown two 2-0 goal leads second periods and have allowed a total of six goals in two games. Breakouts have been a nightmare and on Thursday night, goaltender Logan Thompson was forced to make a career-high 43 saves in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This is the exact opposite of what head coach Bruce Cassidy wants, especially with a young goaltending duo.
"We have to do better in front of them. They are young guys. We have a veteran D-corps that has played in the league. We have to get some of that squared away," said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
There is no feasible way to replace a guy like Alex Pietrangelo, who averages nearly 24 minutes of ice time a night and has 21 points in 23 games. So, the Golden Knight's must try and replace him by committee.
“It’s pretty hard to make up for it, but everyone steps up more, and we try and fill the big gap that we have without him back there,” said defenseman Nicolas Hague, a frequent D-partner to Pietrangelo.
Head coach Cassidy has gone to seventh defenseman and previous healthy scratch Ben Hutton to round out the team's defense in both games without Pietrangelo. Hutton played the first game with Alec Martinez before being bumped down to the third pair with Zach Whitecloud Thursday.
But no matter the pairings, every member of the defense has struggled. Thursday night the Penguins forecheck wore out the Golden Knights defense, often trapping them in the defensive zone for extended periods of time. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins first line made Nicolas Hague look like a pylon on the game-tying goal. The Golden Knights defenseman seemed uninterested in contributing on offense as well.
“They were harder on pucks than us. They played behind us all night. We didn't handle their pressure below the goal line very well. That's a combination of the D not being able to separate and move the puck north, and then some wall battles,” said Cassidy.
The easy fix for this whole problem is to get Pietrangelo back in the lineup. But with that timetable being unknown, the rest of the defense needs to adjust and pick up the slack. This is a huge learning experience and test for them to know what it is like to play without their top defenseman.
Another option for the Golden Knights to go to with Pietrangelo out presented itself Wednesday, as the team recalled Daniil Miromanov from the Henderson Silver Knights. Miromanov has 11 games of NHL experience and is second on the Silver Knights in scoring this season. Recalling Miromanov likely means Pietrangelo will be out for another game or so, possibly until the team is back in Las Vegas on Dec. 7.
Given their seniority Alec Martinez, Shea Theodore, and Brayden McNabb aren't going anywhere. But outside of these three perhaps Hutton, Hague, or even Whitecloud could sit a game or two to send a message and make room for Miromanov.
With a game every other day until Christmas Eve, the Golden Knights are going to have to fix their defensive game on the fly. Given the matter of his absence, the VGK won't be asking Pietrangelo to rush back into the lineup anytime soon.
The Golden Knights next game is Saturday at 4:00 p.m. against the Detroit Red Wings.