Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant gave Brandon Pirri a vote of confidence Tuesday morning, hours before reinserting the forward in the lineup.
Pirri rewarded his coach with his first goal in his past seven games, a second-period score in the Knights’ 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
After a blistering start to his season, the forward entered the game having scored once in the past nine games.
He wasn’t in the lineup in the Knights’ two previous games, but Gallant said Pirri missed Saturday’s game with a sore neck after he was a healthy scratch Thursday at Detroit.
Pirri, who had seven goals in his first eight games this season, played with Cody Eakin and Oscar Lindberg on the third line Tuesday as he looked to regain the form he showed when he was first called up from the American Hockey League.
“I think obviously it’s a long season,” Pirri said Tuesday morning. “There’s going to be some ups and downs. The clip I was going at the beginning was pretty good. It’s a matter of trying to get back to that game and that success. I think that means just playing my game and not trying to do too much, then when the opportunities are there, take advantage and not defer. Here and there, I was passing the puck a little more than I normally do and than I’d like to do.”
Gallant said he never lost confidence in the 27-year-old journeyman.
“I like what he does,” Gallant said. “He was our best player for 10 games when he had a hot streak. After that, we had a little break and he came back and was still OK, but he just didn’t have the puck luck.
“I hope he’s not frustrated, because if he would have kept going the way he was going, he would have been making $8 million or $10 million next year. You can’t score every game in this league. He had a great start, he’s going to level off a little bit, but he’s still a good hockey player. He’s still going to score goals for us. We like what he brings to our team. He’s got a great shot. He’s a power-play guy. We didn’t expect the next 10 games to be as good as the first 10.”
The Knights entered Saturday’s game knowing they were starting a run of eight of the next nine games at home, only to start the homestand with a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It was their third straight loss at T-Mobile, where they have been mostly dominant.
The Knights don’t want to let any more opportunities slip away as the stretch drive heats up.
“We just haven’t been taking advantage of the home crowd and playing at home,” defenseman Shea Theodore said.
Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland partnered with Orangetheory Fitness and The Goodie Two Shoes Foundation to pass out shoes to local kids last weekend.
Orangetheory members participated in a special fundraising workout class for the program, which collected and distributed 450 pairs of new shoes.