There aren’t many, if any, benefits to playing a back-to-back during a normal NHL season. They don’t even exist in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but given these unorthodox times, they’re around for now.
Game 3 is Saturday and Vegas leads the best-of-7 series 2-0.
“I think it’s great,” said Vegas coach Peter DeBoer. “It taxes your roster and tests your depth. Playoff hockey, you’re dealing with a lot of bumps and bruises and night-to-night decisions on guys. I think anybody that’s built for a deep run has that type of depth, and I think it’s a great test of the best teams’ depth. If you ask the guys that are around here, they want to play. They want to play games and not sit around the bubble.”
This back-to-back won’t be like a 24-hour trip through Southern California like the Golden Knights are used to. There won’t be any travel with the teams confined to the hub bubble that is Edmonton; the only difference from Games 1 and 2 is Vegas will be the designated road team.
The biggest challenge could be playing two games in less than 24 hours. Game 3 is set to start at 5 p.m., while puck drop for Game 4 is slated for 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
There are factors in play here. Such a quick turnaround could change the complexion of this series. While the Golden Knights have been the better team through 120-plus minutes, Chicago winning Game 3 could put the pressure on Vegas to respond. This stretch could turn the Knights’ commanding lead into a 2-2 split heading to Game 5 on Tuesday.
On the flip side, the Golden Knights can end this series in a 19-hour span with two more wins. That would prove beneficial as Vegas returns to full health throughout the lineup while preparing for a second round matchup against either the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames or Arizona Coyotes.
Or maybe the Golden Knights and Blackhawks go five overtimes and the league pushes Game 4 to 8 a.m. Monday.
“It’s going to be important for sure,” said forward Nicolas Roy. “They’re probably going to come out hard that game. They don’t want to be down 3-0. Same for us; I think it’s going to be an important game. Game 3 is going to be important and we’ll be ready for that.”
No update on Pacioretty, Nosek
DeBoer said there was nothing new to report on forwards Max Pacioretty and Tomas Nosek and will know more prior to tomorrow’s game.
Pacioretty was “unfit to play” for Game 2 after recording four shots in 18:08 in Game 1. Chandler Stephenson replaced Pacioretty at top-line left wing, as he did throughout the round robin. Pacioretty missed the entire second week of training camp with a minor issue that prevented Vegas’ leading scorer from traveling with the team to Edmonton.
Nosek, who scored in the first period of Vegas’ 4-3 win in Game 2, left with 3:34 remaining in the second period. Nosek drew into the lineup with Nicolas Roy moving back to the third line by way of Pacioretty’s absence.
If Nosek can’t go, Vegas will have to play someone from their taxi squad. Forward Patrick Brown is the only forward with NHL playoff experience; he played eight games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season. Brown also has a goal in one game played with Vegas this season. Keegan Kolesar and Gage Quinney are other options.