With his roster getting closer to being healthy, Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant may have some difficult decisions to make on the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The team welcomed back forwards Will Carrier and Reilly Smith during its season-ending Western Canada road trip. David Perron is reportedly getting closer to being ready. Same for defenseman Luca Sbisa.
For Gallant, it means trying to decide who sits come Game 1 on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings. If he gets all his forwards back, he’ll have 14 for 12 spots. On defense, where he already has eight players, Sbisa’s return would make it nine vying for six spots.
Up front, does Gallant keep Ryan Reaves in the lineup even though Reaves has two assists since being acquired from Pittsburgh on Feb. 23? Does Ryan Carpenter remain on the ice? What does he do about Oscar Lindberg?
Or does he look at sitting Tomas Nosek, who has been an effective penalty killer and a solid player on the fourth line?
“Those are nice problems to have,” Gallant said. “We’ll meet as a staff and talk about it and see who’s available and go from there. Obviously, there’s only so many spots open but we’re going to need all 25 guys.”
The Knights were able to get their top line back together for the first time in a month. Reilly Smith returned to the lineup Saturday against Calgary in the regular-season finale and played 15:10 with three shots on goal as he skated with William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault.
“I thought it was good for him to get out there and get back with the line,” Gallant said of Smith, who missed 15 games after sustaining an upper-body injury March 6 at Columbus. “We definitely missed him and we’re going to need him (in the playoffs).”
Final stat leaders
Karlsson led the Knights with 43 goals, a career-best, and also led the team with 78 points, also a career-best.
Despite missing the final six games of the season, David Perron led the Knights with 50 assists, a career-best for him.
Colin Miller led the team’s defensemen in scoring with 10 goals and 41 points. Brayden McNabb led the team with 176 blocked shots and also led the team in hits with 225. Reaves had 236 hits but the majority of those came while he was with Pittsburgh before he was traded.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had his best goals-against average of his career at 2.24 which tied him for second overall in the NHL behind St. Louis’ Carter Hutton’s 2.09. His save percentage of .927 was also a career best.
In addition to his team-high numbers, Karlsson led the NHL in Plus/Minus with a plus-49. He also led the league in shooting percentage at 23.4 percent. In 82 games, Karlsson took 184 shots in getting his 43 goals.