Knights welcome Fleury back to ice

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There was a Marc-Andre Fleury sighting at City National Arena Friday. And on the ice, no less.

The Vegas Golden Knights’ veteran goaltender practiced with the team for the first time in Phase 3, ending the conspiracy theories that Fleury was hurt and the team was going to attach the three most dreaded words in the NHL these days — “Unfit to Participate” — to Fleury’s name.

Fleury had not participated in the first three practice of the team’s Training Camp 2.0, but he had been skating throughout Phase 2 with his teammates for virtually the entire five weeks of the phase. Coach Peter DeBoer tried to end the speculation back on Monday when he said Fleury was not out due to the coronavirus, that he was merely getting a couple of maintenance days and he would be on the ice toward the end of the week.

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True to his word, DeBoer’s goaltender was present and accounted for, a storyline put to bed. However, Fleury’s return and participation created a new dialogue for DeBoer to deal with — who will be his starting goalie once the playoffs begin in mid-August? Would it be Fleury, who has three Stanley Cup rings? Or will in be Robin Lehner, who was acquired at the trade deadline in late February and has looked impressive in his brief time with the Knights.

 As you would expect, DeBoer was coy with his answer during his daily Zoom conference call with reporters.

”Maybe it will be one guy playing the majority, maybe we’ll go back and forth,” he said. “I’m going to keep an open mind with this.” 

 Neither Fleury nor Lehner were available for comment after practice. 

 And while DeBoer does have time on his side in choosing a goalie, he has other items on his to-do list to get ready for the round-robin portion of the schedule in Edmonton, which begins Aug. 3 vs. Dallas. He’s been introducing a couple of new wrinkles that he wasn’t able to get to after he took over for Gerard Gallant in mid-January. He also spent considerable time Friday on special teams work, trying to get his first and second power play units in a groove while also sorting out his penalty kill pairings.

The first power play unit consisted of Jonathan Marchessault, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Shea Theodore. The second unit was William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Alex Tuch, Nate Schmidt and Alec Martinez.

 Fleury was not a participant in the special team drills with Lehner in net with the penalty kill units. But don’t read too much into that. The Knights are going to let Fleury ease his way into finding his rhythm.

That said, Lehner continued his high level of play during Camp 2.0. Few pucks get by him in the drills and the PP units scored just twice in nearly 30 minutes, one of which was an own goal after a puck went off a defenseman’s skate.

 The team is scheduled to return to the ice at 10 a.m. Saturday. Practice remains closed to the general public.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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