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Knights On Ice Mailbag: Golden Knights’ preferred playoff opponent, future lineup outlooks, and gummy bears

It’s been a minute since we’ve had the postman deliver us some questions. There’s no better time than now with the regular season winding down, and with the Golden Knights at San Jose tonight for an important divisional matchup.

Thanks to those who sent in your questions. Some solid ones. If you’d like to contribute to these going forward, make sure you’re locked in on Twitter.

@SJenkins00: What team would you like the Golden Knights to face in the playoffs?

Literally any team but the Minnesota Wild at this point. That’s who Vegas should avoid, and it would help the Golden Knights’ cause if Minnesota started winning and the Colorado Avalanche strung some losses together.

If the playoffs began today, the young, scrappy Avs would draw Vegas in the first round. Colorado trails Minnesota by two points for third place in the Central Division. Vegas, rest assured, is looking at that race closely. The neck-and-neck battle between Anaheim and Los Angeles also holds importance for the home stretch — for third place in the Pacific and the wild cards.

If the Golden Knights are looking for the most reasonable path to get to, at least, the Western Conference Finals, the Avalanche are the desirable first-round opponent. Minnesota has punched Vegas in the mouth three times. Playing the Wild in a seven-game series has 2007 Dallas Mavericks-Golden State Warriors written all over it — it’s a bad matchup. This version of Colorado hasn’t seen the playoffs, while Vegas has enough of a veteran presence on this roster to claim the Knights hold the edge.

@kwlvrealtor: When William Carrier comes off IR, who do you think gets scratched?

Carrier has not played since Feb. 4. Have we reached the point of putting his face on the side of a milk carton?

Carrier continues to do light skating after practices, giving indication he’s closer to returning and that he might be ready for the playoffs. He’s not the difference maker for the Golden Knights, but he’s the quickest player on that fourth line with the wrecking ball mentality that’s coveted.

It’s not even certain Carrier comes off IR in time for the playoffs, but let’s play Professor Optimistic. The problem is who the Golden Knights take out of the lineup. Ryan Carpenter has benefitted the most from Carrier’s absence, scoring all 10 of his goals since Feb. 4. You can’t take him out. Cody Eakin may not be an offensive savant, but Gerard Gallant trusts him to be the veteran anchor and two-way player on that young third line featuring Carpenter and Alex Tuch.

The obvious choice might be Ryan Reaves, but the Golden Knights’ “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” will be tested. If this two-game winning streak — albeit against Calgary and Vancouver — has any carryover to the upcoming road trip at San Jose and Colorado, Reaves may play his way into a playoff roster spot. Reaves does what Carrier can do, minus the speed and plus the bone-jarring hits (hi, TJ Brodie). Keep an eye on how Reaves plays down the stretch. If he’s doing more nothing than good, he’ll be the odd man out in the bottom six.

If Vegas keeps winning, then … yeah.

@FigmentofYour19: What are your thoughts on Cody Eakin?

Eakin is solid. Not great, not impactful, but solid. I have my occasional conversations to myself, about two or three times a game, where I try to comprehend why Eakin doesn’t shoot while skating toward the net and rather act like he’s going to shoot backhand, but it’s not enough to make me think he’s completely terrible. There are definitely better options than him that could be the third-line center, but he’s solid. I’m really interested to see what he does in the playoffs. His two stints in Dallas were some of his best hockey ever.

@OutsideTheStar: Did the Canucks sacrificing a gummy bear have anything to do with Fleury going down?

I am not one to feed into the art of conspiracy theories.

That being said, this is absolutely plausible.