Thu, 21 Mar 2019

Golden Knights hoping for Stastnys return against Devils

Sports Xchange
14 Dec 2018, 15:03 GMT+10

NEW YORK -- The Vegas Golden Knights could be welcoming their biggest off-season addition back to the lineup Friday night as the New Jersey Devils adjust to the absence of their best player.

Paul Stastny appears likely to return to the Golden Knights when Vegas continues an Eastern Conference road swing Friday by visiting the Devils at Prudential Center.

The Golden Knights last played Wednesday, when they began the trip by beating the host New York Islanders, 3-2. The Devils haven't hit the ice since Monday night, when they capped a Western Conference road trip by falling to the San Jose Sharks, 5-2.

Stastny, who signed a three-year deal as a free agent July 1, has been out since suffering a lower body injury Oct. 8, He joined the Golden Knights (18-14-1) on the road trip --Vegas will visit the New York Rangers Sunday and the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday -- and skated at Thursday's practice in New Jersey. Head coach Gerard Gallant said following practice that Stastny is ready to play in a game, though he didn't say if that would happen Friday.

For his part, Stastny said he will understand if he doesn't return to the lineup right away. The Golden Knights, who made a stunning run to the Stanley Cup Final as an expansion franchise last season, have won 10 of 13 to move into a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"Everyone's playing well right now, right?" Stastny told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after practice Thursday. "When you're winning, different lines are stepping up on different nights. Whatever the coaches feel comfortable with, I'll do and respect that."

The skidding Devils (10-13-6) would feel much more comfortable knowing star left winger Taylor Hall would be available Friday night. Hall, who won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player last season, left practice early Thursday with an undisclosed ailment.

"I don't have much for you yet," Devils coach John Hynes told reporters afterward. "I just know they pulled him off for precautionary reasons and I haven't talked to them yet."

Even with Hall, who is one of just six Devils to play in all 29 game this season, New Jersey has lost eight of nine (1-4-4) to fall into last place in the Eastern Conference.

A pair of number one goalies are likely to oppose each other in net Friday night.

Marc Andre-Fleury earned the win Wednesday for the Golden Knights, when he made 23 saves against the Islanders. Keith Kinkaid took the loss for the Devils Monday night after recording 29 saves against the Sharks.

Fleury is 24-25-3 in 53 career games against the Devils, whom he's faced more than any other opponent aside from the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. Kinkaid won his only career start against the Golden Knights last Mar. 14, when he stopped 39 shots as New Jersey cruised to an 8-3 win in Las Vegas.

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