Updated February 21, 2019 - 7:55 pm
Gerard Gallant’s decision to make Colin Miller a healthy scratch Wednesday served two purposes.
Primarily, it was a message to the Golden Knights defenseman about his recent play, which bottomed out in Monday’s loss at Colorado. That much is obvious.
But it also was a reminder for the rest of the players in the locker room that no job is safe.
“Nobody is untouchable,” center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said.
At a time when they should be starting their push toward the postseason, the Knights continue to fight complacency and inconsistency.
They are 3-6-1 in their past 10 games entering Friday’s encounter with the Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets at T-Mobile Arena. The Knights trail second-place San Jose by 11 points and lead fourth-place Arizona by eight points.
Gallant changed his forward lines last week in an effort to snap the Knights out of their funk, and taking away playing time is his most powerful coaching weapon with 20 games remaining.
“Obviously, it’s unfortunate. Colin is a great player, and it’s the way it goes sometimes,” left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “It’s the coach’s decision, but I think when we see that, it keeps everybody honest. That’s something I respect a lot from our coaches.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you make. In this locker room, it’s all about being a team and being good together. It keeps everybody accountable and needing to work hard.”
Wednesday’s game against Boston marked the first time Miller was a healthy scratch with the Knights and came after he was on the ice for all three goals in a 3-0 defeat at Colorado on Monday. He played 13:41 on 18 shifts, his second-lowest ice time of the season.
Miller is second in scoring among Knights defensemen with 23 points (two goals, 21 assists) in 48 games, and his 11 power-play points lead the club’s blue liners.
Since returning from an upper-body injury on Jan. 19, Miller has six assists and a minus-3 rating.
The 26-year-old currently is the Knights’ second-highest paid defenseman after he signed a four-year, $15.5 million contract in the offseason.
Miller was not available to the media for the second straight day following practice Thursday at City National Arena. He rotated with Nick Holden and Jon Merrill during one drill, and Miller’s status for the game against the Jets remains unclear.
“The only reason he was scratched was because I thought we played our six better guys last night. That was the only reason,” Gallant said Thursday. “Colin had a tough game the night before. It wasn’t from one game. It’s over time, and very seldom do I ever sit a guy because of one game.
“Jon Merrill has come in there and played outstanding hockey. I’m trying to play who I thought the six best guys would be for (Wednesday) night. I don’t know if it’s going to be the same (Friday), but they all played pretty well, pretty good hockey.”
Merrill has appeared in the past 11 games and posted one goal and four assists. The Knights produced a tick more than 50 percent of the shot attempts at 5-on-5 when Merrill was on the ice.
Gallant indicated Merrill had the left side on the third defense pairing locked down for the time being. That would leave Miller and Holden, who was activated from injured reserve Wednesday, competing for the spot at right defense.
“Colin is a big part of our team,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “He’s been a big part of it since the beginning. It’s hard to see that, but we also have some guys that are playing pretty well, so it makes it a little bit tougher decision. He’s an excellent player. He’ll be back for us playing big minutes for us again. That’s just the kind of player he is. He’ll bounce back.”
■ Who: Golden Knights vs. Jets
■ When: 7 p.m. Friday
■ Where: T-Mobile Arena
■ TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
■ Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM); ESPN Deportes (1460 AM)
■ Line: Jets -140; total 6½
1. Stone cold. The Golden Knights and Winnipeg reportedly are two of the suitors for Ottawa right wing Mark Stone, with the Jets set to make a strong push to acquire the Manitoba native. Stone was scratched from Thursday’s game at New Jersey, fueling speculation he’ll be moved prior to Monday’s trade deadline.
2. Ice house. The Knights surpassed last season’s total with their 13th home loss in Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout defeat against Boston. They have dropped six of their past seven games at T-Mobile Arena (1-5-1) and have defeated two playoff teams at home since Dec. 20.
3. Angry visitors. Imagine planning a trip from Winnipeg in the middle of February only to be greeted by snow in Vegas. Traveling fans can’t be pleased with the weather, which probably still feels like a heat wave compared to Manitoba. And the Jets aren’t in a good mood, either, following a 7-1 thumping at Colorado on Wednesday that was their third loss in a row.
David Schoen Las Vegas Review-Journal