It may be more than 100 degrees outside, but summer is officially over for the Golden Knights.
Much of the roster gathered on the ice Tuesday at City National Arena for an optional practice without coaches ahead of Thursday’s opening of rookie camp and next week’s start of training camp.
Marc Andre-Fleury and Reilly Smith were part of a group of 23 players from throughout the organization participating in drills and a scrimmage as they tried to kick the rust off after an offseason shortened by a historic run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The disappointment of the loss to the Washington Capitals hasn’t gone away and may be a motivating factor in driving such a strong turnout.
“We’ve still got a bad taste in our mouth,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “Everyone wants to play (as long as) we played, but you want to be on the other side of it. It’s disappointing going that far and almost laying an egg and not really giving yourself a chance to win it all. I’m excited to get things going and try to go on another run here.”
Captains’ practices are commonplace around the league. While the Knights don’t have a designated captain, Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill and Ryan Carpenter stayed around Las Vegas most of the offseason and helped spearhead the gathering.
“You just try to work on things and get your lungs back a little bit and get adjusted and try to get comfortable,” McNabb said.
It was also an opportunity to get acquainted with some new teammates.
Offseason acquisitions Paul Stastny and Nick Holden both participated in Tuesday’s session.
“I’ve played against Stastny quite a bit being in the Western Conference,” McNabb said. “He’s a really smart player. He’s a great passer who sees the game very well so he’s a great pickup for us. Holden is a big body who can skate and plays the game hard. That’s two really good players we picked up.”
Strong show of support
One highlight of McNabb’s offseason was a visit to Humboldt, Saskatchewan,to meet with families of victims and survivors of the bus accident that killed 16 players and team staff of a junior hockey team in April.
Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson organized the trip and brought the Stanley Cup to the grieving town.
“It was great,” McNabb said. “It’s a really good thing the NHL and Chandler Stephenson did. The town, I think they needed something like that and it was cool to be there and see that and just be a part of it.”
The sight of the trophy, however, was an unwelcome reminder of what could have been for McNabb and the Knights.
“It stung a bit, but that’s the way it goes,” he said.
Not a total loss
Defenseman Nate Schmidt’s 20-game suspension under the NHL’s performance-enhancing substances program won’t cost him his entire salary over that span.
According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the NHLPA, suspensions for a first offense are without pay until the final 10 days of the sanction.
At that time, he can return to practice and begin receiving 60 percent of his salary and bonuses. He stands to lose approximately $482,000 of his $2.3 million salary and will miss nine home and 11 road games.
Schmidt is eligible to play again Nov. 18. He’s allowed to participate in training camp, but not preseason games. Once the season begins, he will be barred from all team activities.
Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt will miss nine home and 11 road games during his suspension for violating the NHL’s performance enhancing substances program.
Oct. 4 vs. Philadelphia
Oct. 6 at Minnesota
Oct. 8 at Buffalo
Oct. 10 at Washington
Oct. 11 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 13 at Philadelphia
Oct. 16 vs. Buffalo
Oct. 20 vs. Anaheim
Oct. 24 vs. Vancouver
Oct. 26 vs. Tampa Bay
Oct. 28 vs. Ottawa
Oct. 30 at Nashville
Nov. 1 at St. Louis
Nov. 3 vs. Carolina
Nov. 6 at Toronto
Nov. 8 at Ottawa
Nov. 10 at Montreal
Nov. 11 at Boston
Nov. 14 vs. Anaheim
Nov. 16 vs. St. Louis