3 Keys: Wild at Golden Knights, Game 1 of first round

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Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez will be game-time decisions for the Vegas Golden Knights when they play the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup First Round at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday.

Pacioretty, a forward, did not practice Saturday and was replaced on the Golden Knights’ top line by Tomas Nosek. Martinez, a defenseman, was also absent and replaced by Nick Holden.

Each has an undisclosed injury.

“We’ll see how they feel [Sunday] when they wake up,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said.

DeBoer declined to name a starting goalie for Game 1 or discuss how he might rotate Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after they shared the Jennings Trophy when the Golden Knights allowed the fewest goals against (124) in the regular season.

“I’m not going to tip my hand, and to be honest with you, I’m not even sure I know,” DeBoer said. “But I know … I’m not going to hesitate to use that strength.”

Vegas and Minnesota are meeting in the playoffs for the first time. The Wild went 5-1-2 against the Golden Knights during the regular season. Vegas had the same number of points (82) as the Colorado Avalanche, who won the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top regular-season team. The Golden Knights placed second to the Avalanche in the Honda West Division and the NHL standings because of the regulation-wins tiebreaker (35-30).

Teams that win Game 1 are 490-222 (68.8 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series, including 7-1 in the first round last season.

Here are 3 keys for Game 1:

 

1. Vegas’ health

Pacioretty led the Golden Knights with 24 goals in the regular season and missed the final six games due to injury. Martinez led them in blocked shots (168) and ranked second in average ice time (22:34). He missed the final two.

Nosek and forward Ryan Reaves will also be game-time decisions. Reaves led Vegas in hits (141) and missed the final 16 games because of an undisclosed injury.

“I think we’re adding a little bit more physicality back in our lineup, getting some guys back for Game 1, which is exciting,” captain Mark Stone said.

 

2. The rush

The Golden Knights are one of the best rush teams in the NHL. Forward Reilly Smith said they must play to their strengths, though they must find other ways to generate offense after scoring 12 goals over their final eight playoff games last season (2-6).

“Usually, it’s harder to score in the playoffs, but just jamming pucks in front of the net over and over again isn’t always the answer,” Smith said. “… I think we can capitalize on more rush chances and really try to utilize that as a bigger factor in the series.”

Wild forward Nick Bjugstad said they will be ready.

“I mean, we know how they play,” Bjugstad said. “We know what they’ve got. There’s no question that they’re a skilled and talented team. They like to move up the ice, and we’ve got to find ways to slow them down. I think we’ve got some guys that can skate too, so I think it’ll be some good back and forth.”

 

3. The net front

The Wild excel at pouncing on rebounds offensively and boxing out defensively. Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said they had a “good conversation” about it and spent time at practice Saturday boxing out and tying up sticks.

“They have big guys up front, big, heavy guys that are going to get to the front of the net,” Pietrangelo said. “They’re predictable in terms of getting there. They want to get there; they’re going to put the puck there. So, for us, it’s expecting that. It’s expecting that they’re going to put pucks in the crease.”

 

Wild projected lineup

Jordan GreenwayJoel Eriksson EkMarcus Foligno

Kirill KaprizovRyan HartmanMats Zuccarello

Kevin FialaVictor RaskMarcus Johansson

Nick BoninoNico Sturm — Nick Bjugstad

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba

Carson SoucyIan Cole

Cam Talbot

Kaapo Kahkonen

Scratched: Zach Parise, Brad Hunt

Injured: None

 

Golden Knights projected lineup

Tomas Nosek — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone

Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam Karlsson — Reilly Smith

Mattias JanmarkNicolas RoyAlex Tuch

William CarrierKeegan Kolesar — Ryan Reaves

Nick Holden — Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabbShea Theodore

Nicolas HagueZach Whitecloud

Marc-Andre Fleury

Robin Lehner

Scratched: Patrick Brown, Dylan Coghlan

Injured: Max Pacioretty (undisclosed), Alec Martinez (undisclosed)

 

Status report

Parise, a forward, will be a healthy scratch. He is the Wild’s all-time playoff leading scorer with 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 40 games; he has 77 points (35 goals, 42 assists) in 101 playoff games with the Wild and New Jersey Devils. The 36-year-old scored 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 45 games and was a healthy scratch in four of the last five games of the regular season.

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