The Vegas Golden Knights can take a commanding lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in their Western Conference first-round series with another win on Saturday in Edmonton.
The top-seeded Golden Knights are up 2-0 heading into Game 3 of the best-of-seven series. Resting their bodies before back-to-back games will be key for both teams, and so will the mental preparation.
“Our group knows they want to be here for the long haul, and that’s going to be a piece of it,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer told reporters.
DeBoer could face a difficult lineup decision in Game 3.
Max Pacioretty, who led the Golden Knights in goals and points during the regular season, did not play in Game 2. His replacement, Tomas Nosek, left late in the second period and did not return.
DeBoer would only confirm both were “unfit to play,” and did not have an update on either player Friday morning.
Pacioretty did not accompany his teammates to Edmonton initially, missing the three round-robin games that Vegas won to clinch the top seed. He played in the 4-1 win in Game 1, but wasn’t a factor in the scoring.
If both Pacioretty and Nosek are unable to play in Game 3, the Golden Knights would need to choose among forwards Patrick Brown, Reid Duke, Keegan Kolesar, Peyton Krebs and Gage Quinney, all of whom are reportedly in Edmonton.
The Blackhawks were less than an inch away from tying the series during overtime of Game 2 on Thursday, but Dylan Strome’s wrist shot hit the crossbar and deflected to the side of the net.
Little more than five minutes later, Reilly Smith won it 4-3 for Vegas with his third goal of the series.
“Disappointing, because I thought we played hard,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “At the same time, we’ve got to keep improving. We’re not out of it. We’re going to regroup and come out raring to go in Game 3.”
Colliton recognizes that the Blackhawks face a tough task being down 2-0 to a deep and talented team like Vegas. He’s looking forward to seeing how his team responds.
“It’s a chance to show our character,” he said.
Colliton scratched Adam Boqvist in Game 2 and elected to play another rookie defenseman, Lucas Carlsson, who was a minus-2 in 10:33 of ice time.
Boqvist, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, is a minus-3 with no points in five postseason games.
“We’re hoping Boqy, with a day of rest, can come back, potentially, with another level for us,” Colliton said.
Robin Lehner has started both games in goal for Vegas, but will likely sit one of the back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday.
Marc-Andre Fleury would start in the other game, bringing 79 playoff wins and three Stanley Cup titles on his resume.
“I think I’ve been clear since we started this that we’ve got two starters,” DeBoer said. “How I roll them out is going to be day to day based on what I feel gives us the best chance to win a game, and win a series. That’s not going to change.”
–Field Level Media