Peter DiLiberatore impresses in last-second call-up for Golden Knights

The young defenseman was paired with Alex Pietrangelo in Thursday’s loss to the Coyotes. Also other notes from the game.

Peter DiLiberatore was playing with the Henderson Silver Knights in Tucson 24 hours ago.

One night’s sleep later, he was partnered with Alex Pietrangelo.

The young Golden Knights defenseman played 19:16 and had three shots on goal on the top pair in Thursday’s 3-1 preseason loss to the Arizona Coyotes at T-Mobile Arena.

“It was definitely cool to get the call,” DiLiberatore said. “I didn’t try to change too much in my game. Just tried to play my game, and play off of him.”

DiLiberatore, a sixth-round pick by Vegas in the 2018 NHL Draft out of Quinnipiac, is most likely starting this season with Henderson but there’s a lot to read between the lines here.

The Golden Knights could have gone with anyone with Alec Martinez getting the night off. DiLiberatore has a sneaky offensive game (20 points in 29 games last season at Quinnipiac) but has shown in stints during camp that he’s patient in his own zone.

DiLiberatore and Pietrangelo were on the ice for 19 attempts while only allowing five at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick.

“I think you’ve got a young guy coming and you want to give him an opportunity to have success playing with one of the best defensemen in the world,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “Petro’s great with young guys, talking to them all the time. A lot of communication, a lot of positive reinforcement. I think it’s just a matter you try to set the table so that he can have some success and feel good about it tonight, so you put him with the best defenseman you’ve got.”

What this shows is where DiLiberatore may fit in the Golden Knights’ plans beyond the seven defensemen they’ll carry into opening night. Kaedan Korczak is still the top blue line prospect, but he’s not ready right now. Daniil Miromanov has impressed with his goal-scoring prowess this preseason, but the forward-turned-defenseman has room to grow in his zone.

With DiLiberatore, it appears he’s the eighth defenseman on the roster with Dylan Coghlan ahead of him. Should the Golden Knights ever be in a position down two guys, with the nature of reading too much into it, DiLiberatore could be a name general manager Kelly McCrimmon calls if Vegas is in a pinch.

“[Pietrangelo] just makes the game easier for everyone and you know why he’s played in the league for so long,” DiLiberatore said. “It’s cool to read off him and see how he operates. You just try to soak in everything.”

The Golden Knights would like to have a finalized roster before Saturday’s preseason finale against the San Jose Sharks, but with the unknown status of Shea Theodore, there could be one more audition for DiLiberatore.

“I try not to look too much into it,” he said. “Just take it as it is and try to play my game to the best of my ability. I take it as a good sign and just keep moving forward, just sticking to my game. I think I stuck to my game and did it to the best of my ability.”

One more shot for Krebs

DeBoer said he wants to give top prospect Peyton Krebs one more look before making a final decision on if he makes the final roster.

Krebs started at fourth-line left wing with Gage Quinney and Keegan Kolesar, but eventually moved to the third line while knocking Mattias Janmark down. Krebs played 13:03 with no shots on goal, but the effort once again did not lack.

He tried to beat an icing call in the second period with defenseman Victor Soderstrom on his right, but Krebs went flying into the boards to cause a skirmish. On the ensuing draw in the defensive zone, Kolesar dropped gloves with Liam O’Brien for a brief moment in defense of his teammate.

“He brings some really good things to the table,” DeBoer said. “I moved him up in the lineup tonight late, I did it in Colorado and he looked better the higher he played in the lineup. I think he has those skills that he can play with those guys.”

Panda happenings

Robin Lehner played his first full game of the preseason making 26 saves in the loss. Lehner got the start in the game at Salt Lake City and played only two periods.

It’s only preseason, but the Golden Knights haven’t given Lehner much offensive support to go by. William Karlsson’s power-play goal in the second period was the only tally the Vegas offense has given Lehner through five periods of play.

“It obviously sucks to lose, but I feel pretty good,” Lehner said. “I feel like I’m moving well, making saves. Some small detail stuff, but I think I feel good in practice. It just sucks losing.”