The Vegas Golden Knights have always followed a general philosophy when it comes to pairing up their defensemen. Head coach Gerard Gallant loves to pair a fast, quick-moving offensive defenseman with a bigger defensive counterpart. However, with Nate Schmidt missing the first 20 games of the season with a suspension, Gallant hasn’t had the opportunity to put together his perfect pairing, which included Schmidt matched up with Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore with Deryk Engelland and Colin Miller paired with Nick Holden.
The Athletic’s Jesse Granger (subscription required) analyzes those new changes which has produced a 3-0 record since Gallant put those pairings together, including a 2-1 overtime win over Arizona and a pair of shutouts over Calgary and San Jose, Friday and Saturday. That’s just one goal allowed in 183 minutes. While it has been made clear that the team missed Schmidt, Vegas’ entire defense missed him as everyone had been shuffled out of alignment without the speedy blueliner. Without Schmidt, the team lacked a third offensive defenseman as the team had to pair Holden with Jonathon Merrill, which struggled throughout the first quarter of the season.
“It adjusted our defenseman because they all played different roles when Nate was out,” Gallant said. “So, everybody is in their spots now and playing pretty well and they are confident.”
- Rick Dhailwal of Sportsnet reports that he’s heard from a source that Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser is making good progress recovering from his groin injury. The 21-year-old has been out since Nov. 2. The scribe adds that Boeser is getting closer and should be back at some point next week. He has four goals and 11 points in 13 games so far this year.
- One of the Los Angeles Kings struggles comes from the play of major off-season acquisition Ilya Kovalchuk who has failed to record a point in eight straight games, according to Curtis Zupke of the Los Angeles Times. The 35-year-old, who signed a three-year, $18.75MM contract this summer, has gone from the team’s top winger to a third-stringer and has dropped to the second unit of the power play. The team broke their 0-for-16 slump on the power play Saturday with Kovalchuk on the bench.
- Fox Sports Jon Rosen writes that the Kings need to get more playing time to rookie Matt Luff, who has played well since being called up from the AHL. The 21-year-old has three goals in eight games after dominating in Ontario. Head coach Willie Desjardins re-teamed him with Carl Hagelin and Adrian Kempe, which found some success for the Kings. The scribe writes that Luff needs playing time and needs to start receiving power play time as well.
- Rosen also adds that the Kings have no interest in bringing former Edmonton Oilers’ coach Todd McLellan aboard.