Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt has learned a valuable lesson over his two seasons in Las Vegas about gripping his beverage a little tighter when Malcolm Subban is around.
One of the goaltender’s favorite jokes is to playfully swat water bottles out of his teammates’ hands.
“He’s something else,” Schmidt said with a laugh about Subban’s propensity to show a more reserved side around the cameras than the one on display around the locker room. “He’s an awesome guy. He’s funny, he’s outgoing. He’s always screwing around with somebody. He’s a lot different behind closed doors and then he puts his pads on and you immediately see just this serious side. It actually kind of weirds me out a little bit.”
Subban’s game face hasn’t been seen very often as Marc-Andre Fleury is second in the league among goaltenders in games played with 59. The 25-year-old Subban was pressed into duty this week with Fleury sidelined by what the team is calling a lower-body injury.
The Knights haven’t missed a beat, winning with Subban in net at home Sunday against the Oilers and Monday night in San Jose.
Subban, who has now won six of his last eight starts after losing his first five, will likely be back in net on Thursday when the Knights host Winnipeg at 7 p.m.
Coach Gerard Gallant said he’s not concerned about Fleury’s status even though he “wouldn’t expect” him to be ready to go by Thursday.
He was pleased with how Subban played in the two victories.
“It was great,” Gallant said after the team practiced Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena. “I thought he played good solid hockey and the team played good in front of him so it’s a confidence builder and it’s all about our team. It’s about 23 guys getting ready to play and playing games the right way. That’s why we’ve had success.”
Gallant was particularly enthused by a stop Subban made on Gustav Nyquist where he came across the crease to deny a great chance in San Jose as the Sharks had started to build momentum late in the game.
“It was huge,” Gallant said. “It was 5-3 at that time and they had just scored a goal and walked in on a 2-on-1 and he made an unbelievable save. The game may have turned out different if he hadn’t. It would have been 5-4 and I think there was about six minutes left. He can do that. He’s very athletic and he makes a strong move on that push.”
Subban downplayed the importance of the stop.
“I just had to make a save,” he said. “Fortunately I got over there, but if I wouldn’t have made the save and they made it 5-4, I’m sure we would have scored again anyway the way we’ve been playing. It’s what the team needed. It’s just about going out there and trying to stop the puck and make some saves.
“(Fleury) is out, so I just want to do whatever I can to help the team get wins until he comes back.”
The Knights scored 13 goals in the two victories despite Subban allowing three goals in each game.
Defenseman Nick Holden indicated it was a matter of things finally balancing out for Subban.
“We’re just excited we’re getting him wins because he’s played games for us this year where he’s played really well and we’ve kind of laid an egg and not done anything in front of him,” Holden said. “The fact he’s able to get some wins is exciting for him, but also for the team.”
Should Fleury’s absence extend much longer as the playoffs draw near, there may be some nerves in the locker room and panic in the Knights’ fan base. For now, the starter is getting rest and his understudy is gaining confidence.
“The more he plays, the better he’s going to be,” Gallant said. “He hasn’t had a whole lot of chances to play, so I think he gets better with each opportunity.”
*Who: Jets at Golden Knights
*When: 7 p.m. Thursday
*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)
*Line: Knights -175; total 6½
1. Keep it rolling. The Knights have now won nine of their last 10 games since acquiring forward Mark Stone at the trade deadline. They’ve done it a variety of ways, finding a way to emerge victorious in wild, high-scoring affairs some nights while completely shutting down the opposition on others. Vegas is starting to look like a very dangerous team with the playoffs just around the corner.
2. First things first. There was some social media debate about whether the second line had surpassed the first as the Knights’ most dangerous unit. Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith have accepted the challenge. The trio have all recorded multi-point games in two straight contests.
3. Playoff implications. Winnipeg is fighting for a Central Division title as it sits a point ahead of Nashville with two games in hand entering their Wednesday night game in Anaheim. The Knights seem to have a firm grip on third place with little chance of moving up or down, but could get within a point of the Jets in a race for home-ice advantage should they meet in a postseason series.
Adam Hill Review-Journal