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Golden Knights draw on Paul Stastny’s skill in faceoff dot

Updated December 28, 2018 - 11:10 pm

Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant matched his top line against the Colorado Avalanche’s top line Thursday for a defensive draw with 12:27 left in a 1-1 game.

That is, with one change.

Gallant sent center Paul Stastny, who normally skates on the second line, to the faceoff dot across from the Avalanche’s No. 1 center, Nathan MacKinnon. It was the first of two times Gallant substituted Stastny in for a defensive draw without the rest of his linemates in the third period, showing the faith the Knights have in the 33-year-old to get the puck.

“Stastny’s a real good faceoff (taker),” Gallant said. “He’s helping our percentage go up for sure.”

Stastny, who has won 52.5 percent of his career faceoffs and 58.3 percent of his draws this season, was expecting to spend more time in the circle Thursday with center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare out. He tied a season high by taking 24 faceoffs, including the one with the first line and another defensive draw with the third line with 6:47 left.

He won 14, including two short-handed in the defensive zone in the final five minutes. Those wins helped the Knights kill two penalties in the final six minutes and hold on for a 2-1 win at T-Mobile Arena.

“I kind of knew going into the game that if I was feeling good on the faceoff dot, I’d be taking a lot of draws,” Stastny said. “That’s easy for me. I’d almost rather do that. I’m more confident in myself. Unless some other guys have a good night, then let them go, but I think when you have a good night, you have to go out there and put it on yourself.”

Bellemare, Miller to travel

Bellemare practiced Friday after missing his first game of the season Thursday. Gallant called it a “personal decision” by Bellemare not to play. He was not available for comment Friday, according to the team, but Gallant said Bellemare will make the Knights’ two-game trip.

Also, Gallant said injured defenseman Colin Miller will travel with the team but did not say whether he will play.

Dad’s trip

The Knights won’t be alone in their games against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. Their fathers also are making the trip.

“I think it’s great,” Gallant said. “It’s a short trip, it’s back-to-back games, so they won’t get a whole lot of time with their fathers, but I think the fathers being around for lunch and breakfast with the players and just being around the arena, coming to practice, being on the bench today, it means a lot to them.”

Fourth-round pick signs

The Knights signed 2018 fourth-round pick Paul Cotter to a three-year, entry-level contract Friday.

Cotter, a 19-year-old forward from Canton, Michigan, started the season playing for Western Michigan University, but left school to play for the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.

Cotter has eight points (two goals, six assists) in his first 12 games with the Knights.

Sisolak in attendance

Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak attended the Knights’ game Thursday and presented the team with “keys to the Strip” in honor of its community service work.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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