In the most important game of the season, the Vegas Golden Knights went in shorthanded and then some.
Due to injuries and salary cap constraints, the Golden Knights went into Monday’s showdown with the Colorado Avalanche dressing 10 forwards and five defensemen.
Rookie forward Peyton Krebs is out indefinitely with a fractured jaw after taking a puck to the face Saturday against the Blues, general manager Kelly McCrimmon said prior to puck drop. Defenseman Alec Martinez was a late scratch with a lower-body injury.
In addition, Vegas was still without forwards Max Paciroetty, Tomas Nosek and Ryan Reaves.
The Golden Knights can clinch the West Division and their first Presidents’ Trophy with a win in any fashion against the Avalanche.
“If you’re in Game 55 of a 56-game season and you’re playing for the Presidents’ Trophy, you have some things go well and you’ve had a good season,” McCrimmon said. “So credit to players, coaches for that. With respect to the makeup of the team, they deserve credit, as well.”
The Golden Knights were unable to call up any emergency exceptions due to a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that injured players must miss one game before the team can bring someone else up into the lineup.
And while the long-term injured reserve pool would have been beneficial to the Golden Knights, Nosek could not be added to LTIR because he was injured with nine games remaining; a player could go on LTIR if there are at least 10 games remaining in the regular season. Hence why Pacioretty can’t be placed on LTIR since he’s missed the now-past four games.
But more importantly, the loss of Krebs is disappointing given the solid start to his NHL career. The Golden Knights’ 2019 first-round pick made his NHL debut May 3 in Minnesota, and Vegas went 3-1 with the 20-year-old in the lineup. Krebs eventually played his way to the top line, playing left wing in place of the injured Pacioretty.
“Unfortunately, these things could happen,” McCrimmon said. “We hope and pray that they don’t because I feel real bad for Peyton, who had made a real good impression for four games, and we won three of the games he played. He helped us get there, and maybe we’re not in the position we’re in if we don’t win three times last week.”
McCrimmon said the club will have 19 skaters available for Wednesday’s season finale against the San Jose Sharks.
“Success is generally not a straight line and doesn’t come without hardships and challenges,” he said. “I feel very confident that this group has done it on so many occasions all year, and I think they’ll be at their best tonight.”