3 keys: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, Game 1 of Western First Round

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No. 8 Blackhawks vs. No. 1 Golden Knights 

10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCH

Max Pacioretty is expected to be in the lineup for the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Tuesday.

Pacioretty sustained an undisclosed injury that forced him to miss all three round-robin games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. He arrived in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, a week ago, completed his quarantine Sunday, and has been practicing with the team.

Vegas won each of its games in the round-robin to earn the No. 1 seed in the West. Chicago eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in four games in a best-of-5 qualifier series and is the No. 8 seed.

Here are 3 keys to Game 1:

 

1. Pacioretty’s impact

Pacioretty, who led Vegas with 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists), 19 power-play points and eight power-play goals in 71 games this season, is expected to return to his regular spot on the top line with William Karlsson and Mark Stone.

“I think Max’s workload will be identical to what it was [before the injury],” Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “I don’t think that will change in any way, shape or form. He’s completely ready to go.”

 

2. Who’s in net?

It’s unclear whether Robin Lehner or Marc-Andre Fleury will start for the Golden Knights. Lehner started two of the three games in the round-robin, going 2-0-0 with a 2.89 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. Fleury helped Vegas defeat the St. Louis Blues 6-4 on Thursday, making 13 saves on 17 shots.

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who missed all but the final day of training camp after testing positive for COVID-19, struggled in the first two games (5.00 GAA, .844 save percentage) of the qualifier series but improved as it went along. He stopped 97 of 108 shots in the final two games (3.67 GAA, .898 save percentage) and made 43 saves, including 20 in the third period, of a 3-2 win against the Oilers in Game 4.

 

3. On the offensive

Chicago and Vegas each received balanced offensive contributions throughout the lineup in the Qualifiers.

The Blackhawks are tied with the Calgary Flames for most goals scored (16) in the postseason. Six players (forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Dominik Kubalik, Kirby Dach, and defensemen Olli Maatta and Duncan Keith) scored at least four points in the four games against the Oilers. Toews is fourth in playoff scoring with seven points (four goals, three assists).

“You sprinkle in some young talent with guys who have been superstars for quite some time and it makes it difficult to defend,” Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said about the Blackhawks. “If our forwards can come back hard and help us out, that allows us to play our gaps a little tighter. That’s what’s going to frustrate skilled players. If we can be up in their face the entire series and try and make them go through you instead of around you, that’ll be the key to this series.”

The Golden Knights are tied for third with the Oilers for most goals scored (15). Seven players (forwards Mark Stone, Alex Tuch, Nicolas Roy, William Karlsson, Nick Cousins, and defensemen Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt) had three or more points in the round-robin.

 

Golden Knights projected lineup

Max Pacioretty — William Karlsson — Mark Stone

Jonathan MarchessaultPaul StastnyReilly Smith

Nick Cousins — Alex Tuch — Nicolas Roy

William CarrierTomas NosekRyan Reaves

Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt

Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore

Nick HoldenZach Whitecloud

Robin Lehner

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Patrick Brown, Dylan Coghlan, Oscar Dansk, Reid Duke, Deryk Engelland, Nicolas Hague, Keegan Kolesar, Peyton Krebs, Jon Merrill, Gage Quinney, Chandler Stephenson

Unfit to play: None

 

Blackhawks projected lineup

Dominik Kubalik — Jonathan Toews — Brandon Saad

Alex DeBrincat — Kirby Dach — Patrick Kane

Alex NylanderDylan StromeDrake Caggiula

Matthew HighmoreDavid KampfRyan Carpenter

Duncan Keith — Adam Boqvist

Calvin de HaanConnor Murphy

Olli Maatta — Slater Koekkoek

Corey Crawford

Malcolm Subban

Scratched: Collin Delia, MacKenzie Entwistle, Brandon Hagel, John Quenneville, Dylan Sikura, Philipp Kurashev, Nicolas Beaudin, Lucas Carlsson, Alec Regula, Nick Seeler, Kevin Lankinen

Unfit to play: None

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