The Vegas Golden Knights have nothing to gain in the standings on Thursday night (except to play spoiler for the Arizona Coyotes), but they will still be getting some good news as starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will be making his return to the lineup after missing the past nine games due to a lower-body injury.
Fleury has not played for the Golden Knights since he stopped 40 out of 41 shots in a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars back on March 15.
In his absence the team relied heavily on backup Malcolm Subban and ended up winning just four of the nine games to settle in the third spot in the Pacific Division.
The start on Thursday, which figures to be Fleury’s final start of the regular season, will at least allow him to get some game action in before the team’s Round 1 matchup against the San Jose Sharks.
Prior to the injury Fleury had been playing what was perhaps his best hockey of the season with a personal six-game winning streak that saw him allow just five total goals. During that stretch he had a save percentage of .972 and recorded a pair of shutouts to give him eight on the season.
Overall he has a .914 save percentage in 59 appearances for the Golden Knights.
It has been kind of a bizarre season for Fleury as he has gone through stretches of total domination, like his most recent run before the injury, and had a lot of other games where he has been a little off. Which version of him the Golden Knights get in the playoffs will be a pretty big factor in how far they are able to go.
Even so, there is a pretty significant gap between Fleury and Subban and having the former back and healthy is going to be a huge advantage for them, especially in a Round 1 matchup against a Sharks team that has badly struggled down the stretch and has a major hole in net.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper is expected to be a game-time decision after he had to exit their most recent game after a stick blade went through his mask and struck him in the face.
The Coyotes are facing a must-win situation on Thursday as any loss (or any point by the Colorado Avalanche) will eliminate them from playoff contention.