The Vegas Golden Knights will try for their fifth win in six games on Saturday night when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets in Las Vegas.
The Golden Knights bounced back from a 4-2 loss to Carolina on Tuesday to cruise to a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, leaving them 4-1-0 with one game left on their six-game homestand.
It’s a remarkable feat considering key players like Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson remain sidelined, and three more players went on COVID-19 protocol this week, including leading goal-scorer Jonathan Marchessault.
“Really proud of them,” said head coach Peter DeBoer. “It seems like every day we get something new thrown at us. This week it’s COVID and positive tests, and obviously the previous weeks it’s been injuries and long-term injuries. They don’t let anything affect them.”
The Golden Knights lost hard-nosed forward William Carrier to COVID protocol on Monday, Marchessault on Tuesday and then center Michael Amadio on Wednesday. And defenseman Shea Theodore missed Thursday’s win after he caught an edge late in the third period of Tuesday’s loss to the Hurricanes and hit his head against the boards on the way down.
“He fell hard,” said DeBoer. “Worked out (Thursday), skating (Friday), progressing really well. But I don’t have a return-to-play date.”
The latest positive COVID tests have also disrupted the practice schedule this week for Vegas.
“We canceled practice (Wednesday). We didn’t pregame skate (Thursday). We showed up,” said DeBoer. “I thought we were a little slow out of the gate because of that. They found their legs and their game and didn’t let what’s going on around them affect how they played.”
Despite missing so many players with injuries and COVID, the Golden Knights head into Saturday’s contest just four points behind the first-place Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division.
“We have one more game here on the homestand, and we’ve got to take care of business,” said goalie Robin Lehner. “But so far, testament to our group, the system, coaches, everyone. We’re fighting through a lot of adversity. I think it shows a lot of credit to our organization, the depth we have.”
Columbus will bring a two-game win streak into Las Vegas after defeating the Arizona Coyotes in a shootout 5-4 on Thursday in Glendale, Ariz.
Boone Jenner scored two goals, Zach Werenski had a goal and an assist and Elvis Merzlikins had 25 saves as Columbus twice overcome one-goal deficits before blowing 3-2 and 4-3 leads. Rookie forward Yegor Chinakhov scored the clinching goal in the seventh round of the shootout as the Blue Jackets improved to 5-0 in extra time this season, including 2-0 in shootouts.
“It seems like lately there’s a lot of close games,” said Jenner. “There’s going to be a lot more coming up. We’re comfortable in them, up one, down one or tied. I think we just keep battling, keep playing the way we can.”
“The guys worked their tails off here, and we found a way to come back — twice in the shootout even,” said Columbus coach Brad Larsen. “We were down to our last shooter there (twice) and we find a way to stay alive and get it done. Kudos to the guys. They poured it out on the ice there tonight.”
–Field Level Media