Lehner returns to practice as the Golden Knights open up final regular season homestand
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The Golden Knights are back at T-Mobile Arena Monday night for the start of their final regular season homestand, when they play host to the New Jersey Devils.
The VGK are coming off their 7th shutout loss of the season. To put that in perspective, Vegas had only been blanked a combined 12 times in their first four seasons of the franchise. Not scoring goals this time of year is frustrating, but dropping points at this stage is downright devastating for a Golden Knights team currently on the outside of the playoff picture and on the verge of missing the postseason for the first time in team history.
“I think we know the spot we’re in, we have to win as many games as we can,” said Golden Knights Head Coach Pete DeBoer. “At the same time our season doesn’t end with a win or a loss, either successfully or unsuccessfully any time in the next week. Every game we play here, we’re getting a little bit healthier. The guys we’re putting back in the lineup are getting more up to speed after missing some time. I think we should have the goal of winning every night and we’re capable of doing that.”
As of Monday afternoon, the Golden Knights have just six games left on their schedule and sit three points behind the Los Angeles Kings with a game in hand for the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Vegas is four points behind the Nashville Predators for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. They’re also four points behind Dallas, though the Stars have a game in hand on the VGK.
“This group doesn’t have any quit in them, and when you count them out, they bounce back and get up and start swinging again. They have all year, so I expect tonight to be a real good game for us,” DeBoer said.
With the Devils in town, history is on the side of the Golden Knights who have beaten New Jersey in four consecutive meetings and their only loss at home happened more than four years ago.
“Yeah, big one for sure. We have a veteran team, very healthy now, still missing some, but this is as healthy as we’ve been in a while. We have a team here, young, hungry that we have to contend against, so we’ll try and get off to a quick start and try to get our crowd into to get back into that hockey we’re become accustomed to playing here over the last few years here,” DeBoer said. “I think we just have to play as a unit. We know where we’re at, we know we have to win a couple games here. I think it’s just everybody collectively as a group bearing down defensively and then obviously putting the puck in the net.”
Robin Lehner was back with the team, and skating Monday morning at City National Arena. The Panda had left in the middle of the team’s road trip last week to handle a family emergency. DeBoer said he believes the matter has been resolved and Lehner will be available against the Devils. He was the first goalie off the ice, though no confirmation from the Vegas bench boss.
DeBoer also hinted at some possible line shuffling ahead of their game against New Jersey, specifically splitting up wingers Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.
“We brought Stone and Pacioretty both off long-term injuries and put them back on the same line and expected that to work,” explained DeBoer. “They’re both working themselves back up to speed. We tried that for two games on the road and two periods, and it wasn’t clicking, so we’re going to look at some different things. And it might just be a matter of those guys playing a few more games and getting back up to game speed before we go back to it and it works again.”
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