If you can reach the NHL’s final four at somewhat full strength, you’ve done something right.
The Golden Knights had a rare full practice on Sunday, something that’s come far and few between during this unusual season. Barring any setbacks, everyone will be available for Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena on Monday.
“It’s rare that you would get healthier as the playoffs go through,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Usually it’s the other way around, but I’m not going to complain.”
Tomas Nosek returned to the ice for the first time since Game 2 of the first-round series against the Wild. The fourth-line center had been out of action with an undisclosed injury; he had been out since April 24 with an undisclosed injury prior to returning for the playoffs.
Nosek took reps as an extra forward. Patrick Brown, who replaced Nosek in the lineup while he was out, also skated as an extra.
Based on that, the Golden Knights will likely go with the same lineup that closed out the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the second round on Thursday. Keegan Kolesar centered the fourth line with William Carrier and Ryan Reaves.
“It’s awesome to have everybody out there,” said forward Jonathan Marchessault. “That’s the way it is in the playoffs; a lot of guys are going to get banged up. They won’t always be around for practices and stuff like that. I think good teams, they find a way. That gives an opportunity for other guys to step up and answer the bell.”
Defenseman Alec Martinez was also a full participant in practice for the first time this postseason. Martinez leads all postseason players with 52 blocked shots, including nine in Game 6 against the Avalanche.
Even after finishing a 56-game season in a span of four months, the postseason has been a run in of itself for the Golden Knights. Game 6 was their 13th game in a span of 28 days, and they had only one extra day of rest before their two-day sabbatical this weekend.
After defeating Minnesota in Game 7 on May 28, the Golden Knights had one day off before playing a Colorado team that had a week off after sweeping the St. Louis Blues. Vegas lost 7-1 less than 48 hours later, but got an extra day off before Game 2 thanks in part to the Denver Nuggets’ schedule in the NBA Playoffs.
The Golden Knights get two days off before welcoming yet another rested team to T-Mobile Arena on Monday. The Canadiens have not played since completing their four-game sweep against the Winnipeg Jets on June 7. Montreal enters the semifinals winners of seven straight.
“It’s good especially this time of year, but then again, this time of year, you get what you need to get ready for the game,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. “It was nice to see everybody out there; it was nice to have a couple extra days.”
Game 1 is Monday at T-Mobile Arena, with games every other day. The Golden Knights will travel north of the border for the first time in over a year for Game 3 thanks to the travel agreement between Canada and the NHL. It will also be Montreal’s first game in the states since COVID-19.
“With the condensed regular season, I think a lot of teams dealt with stuff early in the playoffs,” DeBoer said. “The schedule might be lighter now than it was in stretches during the regular season. You might be reaping the benefits of that.”