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Golden Knights look to blue line for added offense

TAMPA, Fla. — Nate Schmidt made a suggestion on how to wake up the Golden Knights’ hibernating offense.

And he put the onus on himself and his fellow defensemen to carry it out.

“I think we need a little bit more out of the back end, just to help push things over the top here, get our group moving,” Schmidt said.

The Knights won’t be confused for division rivals San Jose or Calgary when it comes to production from the blue line.

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Lightning, the Knights unofficially ranked 12th in the NHL in points from defensemen with 106. Their 22 goals from defensemen is tied with the New York Rangers for 18th overall.

SHORT DESCRIPTION (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Sharks top the league with 154 points from defensemen — Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson have combined for 100 of those points — while Calgary is second with 137 points.

“I don’t think it’s any secret we’ve had some trouble scoring lately,” defenseman Colin Miller said. “It would definitely be great if we could chip in with a couple on the back end. But I think we’ve done a pretty good job all year of trying to help without exposing too much defensively.”

Shea Theodore is the Knights’ leading scorer among defensemen with 24 points on eight goals and 16 assists. He’s already set a career high in goals and is five points shy of matching his total from last season when he set a career high.

Miller has 10 of his 21 points on the power play, while Schmidt has posted four goals and 18 points in 34 games.

Theodore scored both goals in the 5-2 loss at Carolina on Friday, and his second came when he jumped into the play and was spotted by Ryan Reaves.

“I think I could be in the rush a little bit more,” Theodore said. “In some cases, I have to get my shots through a little bit better. I’ve gotten a number blocked this year that I would like to have back. Whether that’s making an extra move at the point to try and find a better lane, I definitely think I can be a lot better offensively.”

Coach Gerard Gallant said there is a fine line for defensemen between activating into the rush and taking care of their own zone.

“Hockey is a game of reads,” Gallant said. “Good teams jump in the play at the right time and read the plays and read the rushes, but you don’t want to give away your defense for jumping in the offense.”

Special teams showdown

The Knights’ red-hot penalty kill faced a stern test against Tampa Bay, which owned the league’s top power play (29.4 percent) before Tuesday.

The Knights were second in the NHL on the penalty kill at 84.2 percent and killed off 12 straight power plays before meeting the Lightning, who scored on their first man-advantage Tuesday.

Since Jan. 1, the Knights have killed 24 of 27 opponent’s power plays, which is No. 3 in the league.

“They get in the shot lanes,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “They’re playing with their partners a lot together. Not a whole lot different. Just getting strong goaltending and I think they do a good job.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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