3 Keys: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights, Game 2 of Western First Round

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No. 8 Blackhawks vs. No. 1 Golden Knights

5:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCH

Vegas leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

Robin Lehner is expected to start in goal for the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Thursday.

Lehner started and made 19 saves in a 4-1 win in Game 1 on Tuesday in Edmonton, the West hub city. Teams that win Game 1 are 478-219 (68.6 percent) winning a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series. 

It was Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty‘s first game since March 9. He missed the three games during the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information. 

Pacioretty was minus-1 with four shots on goal in 18:08.

“I talked to him this morning, he was disappointed in how the game went for him,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said Wednesday. “But I had to remind him, you haven’t played in five months. He got in one scrimmage in training camp, maybe two at the most, before he got hurt. He’s in really good shape, he looks good in practices. Game timing is something that you’ve got to play games in order to get back. I know he’ll get it back quickly, so I’m not worried about it.”

Corey Crawford is expected to start in goal for the Blackhawks after making 30 saves on 34 shots in Game 1.

Here are 3 keys to Game 2:

 

1. Kane production

Patrick Kane led the Blackhawks and was eighth in the NHL with 84 points (33 goals, 51 assists) in 70 regular-season games. The forward has four points (one goal, three assists) in five postseason games, including none in the past two, and was minus-2 with one shot on goal in 20:55 in Game 1.

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said Wednesday that putting Kane on a line with center Jonathan Toews for an entire game is “always an option” to get him going.

“We’ve done it before and they’ve had success together in the past,” Colliton said. “You don’t rule anything out. We’re trying to win, so you turn over every rock and obviously every game we talk about combos. Even within the game, you can be flexible, move guys around, try to get a spark. Kane is a guy who can play a lot, he’s got a great motor, and he’s able to conserve energy at certain times, so he can play on different lines.”

 

2. Dominating third periods

The Golden Knights have outscored opponents 10-1 in the third period in their past four games, including 2-0 against the Blackhawks in Game 1.

“I think it’s just a focus thing,” Vegas defenseman Nick Holden said. “Going into the third, you’re talking in the dressing room before you go out there to make sure we’re doing the right things, just playing the right way. For the most part, since we’ve been playing here [in Edmonton], we’ve been playing pretty well to our game. So that’s just been a focus to us, going out in the third, to make sure we don’t have any letdown. Keep pushing the pace because that’s when we can dominate games.”

 

3. No cheating

The Blackhawks were happy with parts of Game 1. But early in the third period, trailing 2-1, the Blackhawks got sloppy, and the Golden Knights scored two goals in 4:42.

“I mean, it’s just patience,” Toews said Wednesday. “Sometimes you’re down a goal, you kind of get a little antsy, and then maybe take risks that you shouldn’t or wouldn’t otherwise. We just kind of got away from that patient team game, knowing if we work, if do things right, then chances will come. We just made things too easy on them and it ends up in our net in those situations. Regardless of score, we have to be smarter. We can’t give them much because they’ll make us pay.”

 

Blackhawks projected lineup

Dominik KubalikJonathan ToewsBrandon Saad

Alex DeBrincatKirby Dach — Patrick Kane

Alex NylanderDylan StromeDrake Caggiula

Matthew HighmoreDavid KampfRyan Carpenter

Duncan KeithAdam Boqvist

Calvin de HaanConnor Murphy

Olli MaattaSlater 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 

 

Golden Knights projected lineup

Max Pacioretty — William KarlssonMark Stone

Jonathan MarchessaultPaul StastnyReilly Smith

Nick CousinsChandler StephensonAlex Tuch

William CarrierNicolas RoyRyan Reaves

Brayden McNabbNate Schmidt

Alec MartinezShea Theodore

Nick Holden — Zach 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, Tomas Nosek, Gage Quinney

Unfit to play: None

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