3 Keys: Golden Knights at Wild, Game 6 of first round

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No. 2 Golden Knights at No. 3 Wild

9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, BSN, BSWI+, ATTSN-RM

Vegas leads best-of-7 series, 3-2

The Minnesota Wild will try to avoid elimination in the Stanley Cup First Round when they host the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 6 of the best-of-7 series at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday.

Coach Dean Evason said his message to the Wild is the same as it was in Game 5, when they rebounded from three straight losses and avoided elimination with a 4-2 win.

“You can’t sugarcoat it again,” Evason said. “We’re still down 3-2, so we’re in a position where we have to be desperate.”

Evason said the Wild have game-time lineup decisions to make. Forward Matthew Boldy could make his NHL debut.

The 20-year-old was selected in the first round (No. 12) of the 2019 NHL Draft. This season, he scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven games for the United States at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship; 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists) in 22 games for Boston College; and 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 14 games for Iowa of the American Hockey League.

“He’s gotten better and better, and obviously he’s here and available to us if we see fit to put him in,” Evason said.

Max Pacioretty‘s status remains in question. The forward, who led Vegas with 24 goals during the regular season, missed the last six regular-season games and has not played in the series because of an undisclosed injury. Coach Peter DeBoer, who has been calling Pacioretty a game-time decision, said he is skating but gave no further details.

“Going into this series without Max Pacioretty, we knew this was potentially going to be at least six and probably a seven-game series,” DeBoer said. “It was going to be a fight for our lives, and that’s exactly what we’re in.”

Here are 3 keys for Game 6:

 

1. Net front

After trailing 3-1 in the first period of Game 5, Vegas outshot Minnesota 33-7 during the final two periods but scored one goal. Some of the credit goes to goalie Cam Talbot. Some of it goes to the types of shots the Wild allowed.

“We did like the way that we defended,” Evason said. “Certainly Cam had to be real good in a lot of areas, but for the most part we gave those outside shots that he could see, and then we were cleaning up most of the rebounds.”

 

2. Zone time

The Wild must avoid getting pinned in their zone and spend more time in the Golden Knights’ end.

“We’ve got some things that we have to correct, for sure, certainly through the neutral zone, limiting their speed,” Evason said. “Obviously we turned the puck over a few times that we haven’t done a lot through this series, which contributed to their rush opportunities [in Game 5]. That has to get corrected. We can’t give them the opportunities that we did.

“When we get into our defensive zone coverage, we’ve got to get the heck out of there, right? I mean, we got stuck a little bit more than we have prior games here, so we’ve got to do a better job of closing, you know, our sticks, and getting out of there quickly. We need to spend more offensive time down there.”

 

3. Theodore’s production

Shea Theodore scored 42 points (eight goals, 34 assists) in the regular season, ranking fourth on the Golden Knights and tied for seventh among NHL defensemen. He has no points in the series and none in his past 10 games dating to the regular season.

DeBoer pointed to the power play as a factor. Vegas is 2-for-13 in the series.

“I think he’s playing well,” DeBoer said. “I think he’s been really good defensively. I still think he’s doing all the things that he needs to do to be a world-class defenseman out there. He’s skating pucks, he’s breaking pucks out, defending really well. I’m not worried about the offense. I think it’s eventually going to come.”

 

Golden Knights projected lineup

Alex TuchChandler StephensonMark Stone

Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith

Mattias JanmarkNicolas RoyKeegan Kolesar

William CarrierPatrick BrownRyan Reaves

Alec MartinezAlex Pietrangelo

Nicolas Hague — Shea Theodore

Nick HoldenZach Whitecloud

Marc-Andre Fleury

Robin Lehner

Scratched: Dylan Coghlan, , Cody Glass, Dylan Sikura

Injured: Max Pacioretty (undisclosed), Tomas Nosek (undisclosed), Peyton Krebs (fractured jaw)

COVID-19 protocol: Brayden McNabb

 

Wild projected lineup

Jordan GreenwayJoel Eriksson EkMarcus Foligno

Kirill KaprizovVictor RaskMats Zuccarello

Zach PariseRyan HartmanKevin Fiala

Nick BoninoNico SturmNick Bjugstad

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba

Calen Addison — Ian Cole

Cam Talbot

Kaapo Kahkonen

Scratched: Brad Hunt, Kyle Rau, Joseph Cramarossa, Dakota Mermis, Andrew Hammond, Louie Belpedio, Matthew Boldy, Connor Dewar, Brandon Duhaime, Hunter Jones

Injured: Marcus Johansson (broken arm), Carson Soucy (upper body)

 

Status report

Hague likely will replace McNabb, who was placed in NHL COVID-19 protocol on Wednesday.

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