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Marc-Andre Fleury to start for Golden Knights in exhibition against Coyotes

We’re getting close, folks.

Arizona Coyotes v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Zak Krill/NHLI via Getty Images

Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said Marc-Andre Fleury will get the start in Thursday’s exhibition game against the Arizona Coyotes.

DeBoer said it was important for Fleury to get into a game as early as possible because of the goalie’s late arrival to camp. The 35-year-old goalie missed the first week of training camp 2.0 due to maintenance.

The Golden Knights plan to rotate between Fleury and Robin Lehner through the upcoming four games leading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Based on the one-on, one-off switch Vegas has used to this point, it’s expected Lehner will start Monday against the Dallas Stars to begin their round robin, but that was not confirmed.

Fleury is expected to play the entire game. The Coyotes will start Darcy Kuemper, and he will split time with Antti Raanta.

“I think we have two starting goalies, and we’re going to need both guys if we go as deep as we want to go, and we feel we can go,” DeBoer said. “Both guys are going to play here.”

When the Golden Knights take the ice tomorrow at Rogers Place, the same arena they last played before COVID-19 shut everything down, it will have been four months and 21 days since that 3-2 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers. Fleury made 22 saves that night in what put Vegas in this situation — Pacific Division champions and a spot in the round robin to determine seeding in the Western Conference.

It’s not outlandish to think Fleury’s performance will go a long way in determining who will start in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round. Lehner’s short three-game stint as Vegas’ starter (3-0-0, .940 save percentage, 1.67 goals-against average) is the reason why the Golden Knights acquired him at the trade deadline. If the goalies do rotate, Lehner could get the call against the Colorado Avalanche on Aug. 8; a team that outscored Vegas 13-4 in two meetings this season.

“I think we’ve had a really good camp,” said defenseman Nate Schmidt. “Going through the phases, each phase has had something to focus on. Now, I think we’re just getting to the fine-tuning parts of our game.”

Hockey is back, Fleury is in net, and everything just feels normal.