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Early road trip gives Golden Knights chance to bond

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The “Fortnite” phenomenon made headlines in the NHL this week when members of the Vancouver Canucks confirmed they have banned the multiplayer online shooter game during road trips this season.

The Golden Knights can practice their “Orange Justice” dance moves all they want.

“I don’t know what it is exactly, the game,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “I’m not going to ban nothing.”

The Knights embarked on a difficult five-game road swing that begins at 5 p.m. Saturday against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

The early trip is a chance for the team to bond over a few meals, or maybe even hang out in the hotel room for a “Fortnite” battle royale.

“You like going on the road when you win, when you’re playing well and things are going good,” Gallant said. “Again, I think it’s good for your team. They get together and spend some time on the road with each other after 3½ weeks of training camp. But it’s all about winning. You feel good when you’re on the road when you win.”

The Knights hope the early road trip will help wash the bad taste from their 5-2 season-opening loss to Philadelphia on Thursday.

After grabbing a 1-0 lead less than seven minutes in, the Knights weren’t sharp defensively and allowed five unanswered goals by the Flyers.

“Every game is tough, especially (because) we have a target on our backs given the success that these guys had last year,” said Knights left wing Max Pacioretty, who was acquired in a trade last month with Montreal. “That’s a good thing. That brings out the competitiveness that we need from everyone every night.”

The Wild are one of four playoff teams from last season the Knights will face on the trip, which includes a Stanley Cup rematch against Washington on Wednesday and a visit to Pittsburgh on the second game of a back-to-back before concluding in Philadelphia on Oct. 13.

The Knights were among the league’s best road teams last season, compiling a 22-14-5 record.

Their 49 road points was tied with Los Angeles for second-most in the Western Conference behind Nashville, which posted a league-best 57 points away from home.

“It’s really important,” Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “It doesn’t get any easier. We’re facing really good teams. I think our group really needs to step up if you want to win road games. It’s going to get harder. We need to be ready.”

Minnesota was one of two teams to sweep the season series against Knights last season, joining the New York Islanders. The Wild won all three games, including 4-2 (Nov. 30) and 5-2 (Feb. 2) victories at Xcel Energy Center.

Center Eric Staal burned the Knights with four goals and two assists in the three games. Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk went 2-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage.

This will be the home opener for Minnesota, which lost 4-1 at Colorado on Thursday to start the season. Excluding the Knights, the Wild rank first in league history for point percentage in home openers (.853; 13-1-3 in 17 games), according to NHL stats.

“The sun came up,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday. “I didn’t like the way we played (Thursday), but if you start getting overly depressed after game one, I think it could make for a long year. And the players feed off of that.”

The Knights did not practice Friday as they flew to Minnesota, where they were greeted by chilly temperatures in the 40s.

Gallant is not expected to make changes up front with the minimum number of healthy forwards, but could alter the defense pairings after partners Nick Holden and Jon Merrill struggled against Philadelphia.

“We haven’t beat them yet, so it’d be a nice time to win a big game in Minnesota,” Gallant said. “I think they lost (Thursday) also, so it should be a big battle there and that’s their home opener so we’ve got to get ready to get back.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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