Defenseman Nick Holden returned to the Golden Knights lineup on Monday night in San Jose in the place of Jon Merrill after sitting out the previous nine games as a healthy scratch.
Thursday night it was Colin Miller’s turn to watch the game against Winnipeg from the press box as Holden and Merrill both got the nod.
“It creates good competition between our guys, that’s for sure,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said of having seven quality blueliners for only six active spots. “It keeps guys on their toes. You understand what’s expected of you and keeps you accountable for what you do every day, every practice, every game.”
The downside for the group is that somebody is going to have to be the odd man out each night.
“Right now, you’ve got guys playing really well that aren’t in the lineup,” Schmidt said. “I mean, Jon Merrill was playing awesome and then Holden comes in and plays well. That’s just kind of the way we’re rolling right now. We’ve got a bunch of guys who can come in and contribute and that’s never a bad thing. Depth is never a bad thing.”
Holden got the call to suit up for the second consecutive game on Thursday.
“You’re just excited to play again,” Holden said of how his first game back went on Monday. “You want to play and contribute. It’s exciting and obviously when the team is winning, it’s exciting to be a part of that. I think for the most part I felt good. The timing might have been just a little bit off, but I thought the team played really well so it was easy to come back in and jump right in to what the team was doing.”
Holden and Merrill were paired together on Thursday night and both assisted on William Karlsson’s first period goal.
Praise for Subban
Malcolm Subban got his third straight start in place of starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
Goaltending coach Dave Prior believes some of Subban’s early season struggles were simply situational.
“Obviously, (Subban) is capable of playing far more than he has this season, but when you have someone like Marc-Andre Fleury available to you, you have to take advantage of that,” Prior told the Review-Journal on Thursday. “In the beginning of the season, some of Malcolm’s losses came on back-to-backs, and that’s tough. But then we sort of flipped things and gave him some first nights lately and he has done very well.”
Subban lost his first five starts but has won six of his past eight entering Thursday’s game, including two straight since Fleury’s injury.
“For me, his overall record is reflective of how well he has played,” Prior said. “I’m very happy with how he has played.”
Coach Gerard Gallant offered no updates on Fleury’s status.
Fourth-line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was replaced in the lineup by Tomas Nosek, who played alongside Ryan Reaves and Ryan Carpenter.
Gallant said early Thursday that Bellemare would be a game-time decision, though he declined to cite a reason.
William Carrier skated with the team on Thursday morning and appears to be nearing a return.
“He’s getting real close,” Gallant said. “It’s good to see him back with us.”
The forward hasn’t played since Feb. 16 due to an upper-body injury.