Three questions facing Vegas Golden Knights


Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Vegas Golden Knights.

1. Can the Golden Knights do it all over again?

As we’ve mentioned once or twice today, the Golden Knights were a huge surprise last year. They had regular season success and playoff success. Everything seemed to work. They ended up having a killer first line, their defensemen performed extremely well as a group and they got solid goaltending from a number of different goalies.

The Golden Knights have already stated that the shootings in Vegas near the start of the hockey year helped motivate them throughout the year. Also, the fact that they all had a chip on their shoulder because they were all set aside by their former teams.

Recreating the season they had in 2017-18 isn’t going to be easy. Finding the motivation to start from scratch and do it all over again is easier said than done. The roster underwent some changes this off-season, as they signed Paul Stastny from Winnipeg. They also lost David Perron and James Neal. Those are two significant losses that won’t be easy to replace.

[2017-18 Review | Under Pressure: Tatar | Breakthrough: Karlsson]

A lot of things have to go right for the Golden Knights to go back to the Stanley Cup Final, but they showed that they’re capable of playing at a high-level for an entire hockey season plus playoffs. There’s a lot of work for them to do, but head coach Gerard Gallant and GM George Mcphee have pushed all the right buttons once, they can do it again.

“I think we can play even better,” McPhee said, per “There was an opportunity for a lot of guys to play regularly and play higher in the lineup, and a lot of them developed. The development in the playoffs can make you a much better player than you’ve ever been, and so we expect the guys to come back next September and that group should be better.”

2. Will the line of William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault be as productive as they were last year?

Karlsson, Smith and Marchessault were an unexpected trio that ended up working out perfectly. When they were together, they played extremely well. Karlsson led the team in goals (43) and points (78), Marchessault added 75 points of his own and Smith contributed 60 points.

The line was way better when they played together. When they were apart, each player had a CF% below 50 percent. Together, they were able to dominate possession and overwhelm teams with their speed and offensive talents.

You’d have to think that playing almost a full year together would only help further develop the chemistry they built up. The numbers they posted last year suggest that they can continue being one of the best lines in the division, the conference and in the league.

For the Golden Knights to be one of the elite teams in the West, again in 2018-19, they’ll need this line to perform at the highest level. Thankfully for that line, they have a pretty good supporting cast. Erik Haula, Stastny, Alex Tuch, Cody Eakin and Tomas Tatar are all capable of chipping in offensively, too.

The top line will have to do most of the heavy lifting, but they did that for year and there’s no reason to think that they can’t do it all over in 2018-19.

3. Can Marc-Andre Fleury still handle a heavy workload?

Fleury was one of the big reasons why the Golden Knights were able to go on a long playoff run. He was outstanding in the first round and he was able to keep it going for most of the postseason. He finished the playoffs with a 13-7 record with a 2.24 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage.

The 33-year-old also missed 25 games early on in the regular season because of a concussion. That limited him to just 46 appearances in 2017-18. The veteran has now suited up in 46 and 38 games over the last two seasons. Is he capable of handling a bigger workload? That’s the biggest question mark between the pipes for the Golden Knights. On the flip side, playing fewer games during the regular season could’ve led to him being fresher during their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Last year, Malcolm Subban and Maxime Lagace did a solid job while Fleury was on the shelf. The odds of them being able to accomplish that again is unlikely. Vegas will need their starter to perform at a high level if they want to be one of the elite teams in the conference and the league.

McPhee rewarded Fleury with a three-year, $21 million contract extension this summer. It’ll be up to him to live up to the new deal.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

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San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer didn’t take part in pregame warmups, saying the team’s decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

Reimer said in a statement Saturday that he made the decision based on his Christian beliefs, adding that he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey.

“In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” Reimer said.

Reimer is the second NHL player this season to refuse to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys, with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov declining to in January. Reimer was not slated to start in Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders, which is Pride night.

Additionally, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

The Sharks said in a statement that they are proud to host Pride Night, saying the event reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness.

“As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”

The You Can Play Project, which works to promote inclusiveness in sports, said the organization was disappointed in Reimer’s actions.

“Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” the organization said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”

Panarin, Shesterkin lead Rangers to 6-0 rout of Penguins

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NEW YORK — Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves as the New York Rangers routed Pittsburgh 6-0 on Saturday night for their second win over the Penguins in three days.

Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also scored for the surging Rangers, who have won nine of their last 11 home games and are 12-4-0 in their past 16 at Madison Square Garden.

Shesterkin won his fifth straight and posted his second shutout this season. He nimbly denied Pittsburgh forward Mikael Granland with a sprawling save five minutes into the third period to preserve the shutout, the 10th of his career. His other one this season was a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

“When you put in hard and honest work, miracles happen,” Shesterkin said through a translator. ”We played wonderfully today – scored many, many goals. Honestly, I hope the fans loved it. We’re playing for them.”

The Penguins lost their third straight and trail the Rangers by 12 points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, still in wild-card position, is trying to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight time.

“Tonight was a humbling experience for all of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. ”At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. We still have control of our destiny.”

Patrick Kane and defenseman K’Andre Miller also had two assists apiece as New York improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine home games against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are five points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils, who lost at Florida on Saturday.

“This was a big game for our goalie and our team,” Panarin said. “If you work at playing the right way, you have opportunities for goals.”

Since Dec. 5, when they turned around their season with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 29-9-5.

As he did on Thursday when the Rangers beat the Penguins 4-2, Zibanejad opened the scoring. He got his team-leading 36th goal at 5:10 of the first, beating Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Trouba and Miller assisted.

Panarin made it 2-0 at 19:49 on the power play, whipping the puck past Jarry from the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.

Tarasenko increased the lead at 3:54 of the second with his fifth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in 10 of his first 18 games with the Rangers.

Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:43 with his 31st goal and third in two games against the Penguins. Kane and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Kreider’s 260th career goal, which moved the Rangers forward within two of Vic Hadfield for fifth place on the franchise list.

New York won Thursday when Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third and added an empty-netter.

After Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in net following Kreider’s goal, Trouba beat the replacement with a sharp-angle shot at 8:39 for his eighth to increase the margin to 5-0. Trouba has points in six of his last eight games.

Panarin scored again at 16:38 of the second – his 22nd goal of the season – to make it 6-0, with assists to Kane and Filip Chytil.

“We’re building chemistry, building every day and every game,” Kane said.

Panarin has points in eight of his last 10 games and leads the Rangers with 77 points overall, while Kane has seven points in his last six games.

“It’s nice to see that many great players on your team,” added Panarin, whose first two NHL seasons were played alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We’re happy tonight.”

Zibanejad assisted on goals by Tarasenko and Trouba and has 25 points – including 14 goals – over his last 20 games.

“It was just one of those nights when the puck goes in for us,” Zibanejad said. “And obviously Igor gives us a boost making all those saves.”

NOTES: The Penguins were missing defenseman Jeff Petry after he was hit with an unpenalized elbow from Rangers forward Tyler Motte on Thursday. … Pittsburgh also scratched defenseman Jan Rutta and forward Dalton Heinen and played defenseman Mark Friedman for the first time since Feb. 11. … The Rangers were without injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the 10th straight game.


Penguins: Host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

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CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.