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Lehner, McNabb return to Golden Knights practice

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt, left, defenseman Brayden McNabb (3) and Robin...
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt, left, defenseman Brayden McNabb (3) and Robin Lehner (90) celebrate after defeating the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)(John Locher | AP)
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 3:59 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Injuries have been the story of the Golden Knights season but on Monday, the team received some good news on two impact players.

Robin Lehner and Brayden McNabb were both on the ice in a formal setting with the team for the first time in weeks.

Lehner has missed the last 10 games with a lower-body injury, while McNabb has missed the last 13 games with an upper-body injury. Golden Knights Head Coach Pete DeBoer said the team will make a determination on their availability moving forward after practice on Tuesday.

“Good next steps for both those guys, back in a full practice with us,” DeBoer said. “That’s not the final step for them to be able to play, but it’s a good sign that they’re obviously getting a lot closer. we had a couple guys who took maintenance days that weren’t injuries and then obviously have all the injuries too.”

Having one or both of those players return to the lineup will provide a boost to the team, similar to what we saw with the impact of Alec Martinez this past weekend, who returned after missing 56 games. In the Golden Knights 5-4 overtime thriller, Martinez logged 13:41 TOI, but it was his presence more than his production that truly created a spark.

“Marty is a huge piece to our team, our blueline especially, and you can’t replace what he does or how well he does it on a consistent level every single game,” explained Golden Knights defenseman, Zach Whitecloud. “That comes from his experience, where he has been, who he has .”played in the past, runs he’s been on. He knows how to play the game the right way every single shift, every single game. That’s huge for us on the backend especially for me to learn. To bring that consistency to your game and to your life, so to have that back there is no word to describe how important that is, but that it’s vital to having him on our backend.”

If the Golden Knights have any plans of making the postseason for the fifth straight season, they’re going to need all the help they can get. With less than a month left in the season, Vegas currently occupy the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. However, Vegas has played the most hockey of any team in the West, meaning they can’t afford to drop any more points down the stretch.

“Keep it small picture. Win a game, win a game, win a game, I think that’s our approach,” DeBoer said. “We did talk about the big picture with 14 games left and I think, like I said, destiny is really in our own hands. We’re going to have to win nine or ten of them, we know that, and we’re capable of that.”

“Take it one at a time, shift a time. That’s the worst thing you can do is look ahead,” Whitecloud said. “With an experienced group like we have, the runs we’ve been on and those sorts of things and playing in those tight games where every single puck out matters, every single blue line chip matters, every single breakout matters. Those are the kind of things we know how to do and it’s coming down to where we have to execute for 60 minutes every single night. We can’t look at a week from now, two weeks from now, who we play, when we play, all that sort of stuff. Just one shift, one game at a time and that’s what we’re focusing on.”

The Golden Knights own the second-easiest strength of schedule the rest of the way in the National Hockey League, starting with back-to-back road games in Seattle. It will be the franchises first trip to the Emerald City, facing a Kraken squad that own the second-worst record in the league.

“The back-to-back is the old college hockey thing, it’s really hard to sweep a team,” said DeBoer. “I think the Chicago game showed us, regardless the strength of the opponent or what people say is the strength of the opponent, we have to play great every night here. That’s the challenge, we don’t have a group that can have a night off and win easily here.”

“Obviously in a tight spot, lot of games ahead and lots of potential wins as well, so I think we have to go game-by-game here,” said Golden Knights Forward Jake Leschyshyn. “I know we want to say we want to make playoffs, but we have to win one game at a time here and I think that’s the focus going forward.”