Updated March 21, 2018 - 4:30 pm
The Golden Knights already averted one goaltending crisis during the early part of the season, staying afloat in the Pacific Division before they pulled away from the pack in December.
Now, with the playoffs around the corner, it looks like they’ll have to do it again.
Hey, nobody said winning a division title would be easy, right?
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who left Tuesday’s victory over Vancouver after the first period, did not travel with the team Wednesday to San Jose, California, for the start of the Knights’ two-game road trip.
The team recalled goaltender Oscar Dansk from Chicago of the American Hockey League, a clear sign Fleury will not join the Knights (47-21-5, 99 points) for their 7 p.m. Pacific Division clash at SAP Center against the second-place Sharks (41-23-9, 91 points).
But with an eight-point lead over San Jose and nine games remaining, there’s no need to risk the health of the all-star goaltender.
“I’m not getting into specifics about what he’s doing, but he’s not going to come today,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said after practice Wednesday at City National Arena. “He could join us tomorrow or in the very near future.
“He’s not coming on our plane today. He could be there tomorrow. He could be there the next day. I’m not sure.”
Gallant confirmed Fleury was injured, and not being rested, when he was replaced by Malcolm Subban to start the second period Tuesday.
Fleury appeared to take a rising shot from Vancouver’s Brandon Sutter off his mask or chin guard midway through the first period. He did not return to the Knights’ bench for the final two periods.
Fleury missed 25 games after suffering a concussion Oct. 13 when he was bowled over by Detroit’s Anthony Mantha in the second period and remained in the game.
Allan Walsh, Fleury’s agent and a vocal critic of the NHL’s concussion policies, declined to speak about Fleury’s health when asked if the goaltender was going through concussion protocol.
“I cannot comment on the medical status of a player,” Walsh wrote in a text message. “It would be a violation of US law under HIPAA. Any comment on the status of a player should come from the club.”
The Knights face the prospect of relying on a rookie starting goaltender who is coming off a six-week layoff to stave off the red-hot Sharks.
Subban, who injured the middle finger on his left hand during the pregame skate Feb. 8 at San Jose, was credited with 22 stops against the Canucks in his first action since Feb. 2.
“I’m not too sure what’s going on right now, but I’m just going to be ready if I’m going to get the call,” Subban said. “As a backup, that’s your job, to make sure you’re ready at all times.”
Subban was one of the four goaltenders the Knights used when Fleury was sidelined for two months and is 11-3-1 with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
Subban made three saves in relief of Lagace during the Knights’ 5-4 overtime victory over the Sharks on Nov. 24.
“He’s had a good year for us,” Gallant said. “When he goes in the net, he plays like a No. 1. … We’re real confident when (Subban is) in the net.”
Injured forward Reilly Smith was not on the ice during Wednesday’s optional practice and is not expected to be on the road trip. The update on Fleury could be the last one provided by the Knights for the foreseeable future.
“Once we get an X beside our team,” Gallant said, referring to the postseason, “you’re not going to know nothing about injuries.”
1. Magic number. The Golden Knights (99 points) needed to earn five more points to clinch a playoff spot entering Wednesday’s schedule of games. Los Angeles and St. Louis each can finish with a maximum of 103 points, and Anaheim can get to 104 points, but the Knights own the tiebreaker vs. the Ducks.
2. Raising Kane. Since he was acquired by the Sharks at the trade deadline, left wing Evander Kane has five goals and 10 points in 10 appearances. More importantly, San Jose is 8-2 in its past 10 and scored five goals or more in six of those games.
3. Push it real good. All the drama surrounding the Knights’ netminders has overshadowed the fact they’re riding a two-game winning streak and have played five straight good periods. Can they continue their playoff push on the road, where they’re 21-12-3?
David Schoen Review-Journal