No Mark Stone. No Max Pacioretty. No William Karlsson.
No problem for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Despite losing their two top returning scorers in Stone (lower-body injury) and Pacioretty (broken foot) in the second game of the season on Oct. 14, and then losing second-line center William Karlsson to a broken foot a couple of weeks later, the Golden Knights have won seven of their past nine heading into Saturday’s matchup against the Vancouver Canucks in Las Vegas.
Defenseman Zach Whitecloud also has been sidelined with a hand injury that required surgery. Another defenseman, Alec Martinez, left Thursday night’s 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild in the first period after suffering a cut near his left eye from the skate of Brandon Duhaime that Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said took more than 50 stitches to fix.
Despite all the key injuries and a 1-4-0 start to the season, Vegas entered Friday’s action just four points behind first-place Edmonton in the Pacific Division.
“When you think going into the game, with the lineup we had, and then losing Martinez early, all the penalties (six): We had a lot of reasons not to win tonight,” DeBoer said after the Knights snapped Minnesota’s four-game win streak. “Could have taken some of the easy ways out of the game, and we didn’t. We worked and competed and made it tough defensively, killed some big penalties, got some goals from depth guys.
“It was a gutsy, gutsy effort.”
Stone, whose right knee appeared to buckle on a shot, has resumed skating, but Pacioretty and Karlsson likely are several weeks away from returning.
“It seems like we’re losing guys continuously,” said defenseman Shea Theodore. “But at the same time we have guys step up and playing in elevated roles.”
Two of those guys, forwards Paul Cotter and Jonas Rondbjerg, scored their first NHL goals in the first period against the Wild. Jonathan Marchessault scored his fifth goal in five games to make it 3-0 late in the second period before the Wild made things interesting down the stretch with a pair of third-period goals.
“This bus has been driven by our goaltenders and our leadership,” DeBoer said.
Next up is a Vancouver team that is coming off an ugly 7-1 loss at Colorado on Thursday night, falling behind 3-0 in the first period and 6-0 after two periods. The Canucks have won just two of their past eight games.
“We weren’t close tonight,” said Vancouver coach Travis Green. “Obviously we had a lot of guys who weren’t ready to play tonight or didn’t play well.”
“We should be embarrassed,” said center Bo Horvat. “We obviously didn’t come to play tonight. We didn’t show any sign of response or anything.”
“It’s unacceptable,” Horvat added. “You still have to find ways to compete, stay in the fight. We didn’t have that tonight.”
Horvat said the Canucks can’t let the loss to Colorado carry into the game with the Golden Knights.
“This has to be a one-off,” he said. “It can’t be a repeat. We have to respond here in Vegas.”
–Field Level Media