In their brief three-year history, the Golden Knights have developed a reputation for being fast skating and setting up each other with pretty passes and delivering highlight-reel goals.
They’re trying to change that rep a little in Year Four and be more of a gritty, down-and-dirty offense. To that end, Wednesday’s training camp was dedicated to crashing the net, redirecting pucks or knocking home rebounds.
“One of the messages from the bubble experience was toward the end we didn’t stick the puck in the net,” coach Pete DeBoer said after Day 3 at City National Arena. “You can say it was great goaltending that got you beat but you can’t blame it all on that. We need to do a better job in front and get bodies to the net.”
Jonathan Marchessault got the memo. The veteran forward, who had a frustrating end to the playoffs in September, scored the lone goal in Wednesday’s scrimmage off a rebound as his Gray team blanked the White, 1-0.
The Knights have some big bodies in Alex Tuch, Ryan Reaves, Mark Stone and Will Carrier who can get to the blue paint and create havoc for opposing defenses.
“That’s definitely an emphasis for us,” DeBoer said.
So far, things have gone smoothly at training camp. Tuch, who took Tuesday off, was back on the ice Wednesday skating with Cody Glass and Nicolas Roy. The lines and defensive pairs remain pretty much intact as Chandler Stevenson install centering for Stone and Max Pacioretty and Marchessault remains with William Karlsson and Reilly Smith.
Defensively, there was one change as Nic Hague was paired with Zach Whitecloud and Nick Holden skated with Dylan Coghlan. But the lineup picture should come into clearer focus when the team has a “Game night experience” Thursday with a full scrimmage at T-Mobile Arena which is closed to the public and media.
“We want the guys to get the feel of what it’s like for a game,” DeBoer said. “Alex Pietrangelo hasn’t made the drive to T-Mobile and we want everybody to get comfortable with the routine.”
DeBoer said this training camp is ahead of the one the Knights staged in July prior to heading to Edmonton for the return to play in the bubble.
“When I took over (in January), there wasn’t a lot of time to put things in,” he said. “We only had a few practices. So when we came back, we were able to have a real camp and it obviously helped us in the bubble.
“This camp is more about reminding about some things and some tweaks. We’re way ahead of where we were last summer.”
DeBoer said it may be a few days before the team gets forward Peyton Krebs and defenseman Kaedan Korczak on the ice at City National after they and Team Canada lost to the United States and Brendan Brisson, this year’s first-round draft pick, 2-0 in the World Junior Championships gold medal game Tuesday night.
“I talked to (General Manager) Kelly (McCrimmon) about them this morning,” DeBoer said. “We put a lot of thought into that and spent a lot of time on deciding how to handle it with them.
“I think we’re going to give them a couple of days to decompress. They just spent a full month in a bubble up in Edmonton. Then we’ll fly them down here and they’ll have to quarantine. I’m not sure for exactly how long. So we won’t see them for a few days.”
Instead, DeBoer and his staff will focus on the 40 players who are in camp, make their final evaluations and determine who plays on the opening night roster vs. Anaheim next Thursday, who goes to the team’s taxi squad and who will report to Henderson for the AHL’s Silver Knights season, which begins Feb. 5.
“I think we’re ahead of the curve in terms of the style of play,” he said. “Overall, I’m very pleased with our conditioning. The fitness level is excellent.”