Lehner starting goalie for Golden Knights in round-robin opener

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Robin Lehner will be the starting goalie for the Vegas Golden Knights in their first game of the Western Conference round-robin in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Dallas Stars at Rogers Place on Monday (6:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, NHL.TV, SN1, ATTSN-RM, FS-SW).

Coach Peter DeBoer said prior to the Qualifiers that the plan was to give Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury two starts each leading up to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the goalies likely rotating for the other two round-robin games against the St. Louis Blues (Thursday) and Colorado Avalanche (Saturday).

Fleury made 22 saves in a 4-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes in an exhibition game Thursday. 

“I think coming off a four-month pause, in order to make sure that we get everybody up to speed and are fair and have all the information at our disposal in the playoffs, [splitting starts is] the right thing to do,” DeBoer said July 28.

This will be Lehner’s fourth game for the Golden Knights since being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 24. Lehner was 3-0-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .940 save percentage with Vegas prior to the NHL season being paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Fleury was 27-16-5 with a 2.77 GAA and .905 save percentage this season. Fleury has played in 142 Stanley Cup Playoff games and won the Cup three times with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lehner has played in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

DeBoer said he will make a decision on who starts Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round following the round-robin.

Vegas forward Max Pacioretty will not play Monday. The Golden Knights’ leading scorer (66 points; 32 goals, 34 assists) continues to heal from a minor injury sustained during training camp and is not with the team in Edmonton, the hub city for the Western Conference.

DeBoer said Pacioretty’s return is “on the horizon” but did not say if he will be available against the Blues on Thursday.

The Golden Knights are expected to keep the same lines and defense pairs from Thursday against the Stars; Chandler Stephenson will skate on the top line in place of Pacioretty, and Nick Cousins will skate at third-line left wing with Nicolas Roy and Alex Tuch.

Cousins, who was acquired in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 24, scored three points (one goal, two assists) against Arizona. Tuch scored two points (one goal, one assist), and Roy had two assists.

“Depth is everything come playoffs,” DeBoer said. “I was talking to [general manager] Kelly [McCrimmon] and [president of hockey operations] George [McPhee], the reason why we got Nick Cousins is because of this situation. [Pacioretty] is dealing with something and isn’t ready, so you have a guy that has the skill set to be ready to jump into the top nine and play with offensive players.

“That’s depth you might not have during the regular season that you’ll have to trade for at the deadline in order to add to your group, anticipating a long playoff run.”

Roy said the success the third line had Thursday was because the three were on the same page.

“Guys that play fast, who like to go on the forecheck. We have a really good chemistry,” Roy said. “We had a couple of practices in training camp, and now the exhibition game, so I think we play the same way.”

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