Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said he thinks the final three exhibition games are about preparing the NHL roster for the regular season.
The first few on the seven-game docket, which begins Sunday with a 5 p.m. matchup against the Arizona Coyotes at T-Mobile Arena, have different goals attached.
“It’s early in training camp,” Gallant said Saturday after the second day of organized practices for veterans. “I’m not putting a lot into these games. For me, the last three games are really important for us, but these upcoming games are about giving guys some opportunities.”
It won’t be all prospects on the ice for the Knights. NHL rules stipulate at least eight veterans must be active for each team in the preseason.
For the purposes of the rule, a veteran is defined as a forward or defenseman who played in at least 30 games last season, a goaltender who either played in 30 or dressed for 50 games last season, a first-round pick from the 2018 draft or any player who has logged more than 100 NHL games in their career.
The rule was put in place to ensure fans could see at least some recognizable faces during the early portion of the preseason schedule.
“You always want to play well in your own building, but as a veteran player years ago, I didn’t want to play many exhibition games,” Gallant said. “Sure, you wanted to play the last three or four, but early on, you really don’t want to play those games.
“You can look at the roster and our team is pretty well picked. But when we opened training camp, we said, ‘Hey, impress us and make us make decisions. Things happen in training camp. Play well and open some eyes up and give yourself an opportunity.’ That’s what we want. We’re no different that any other team. You’ve got your 23, 25, 27 guys that have a chance to make a roster, but if a young kid comes in and plays really well and makes you make a decision, that’s good.”
Gallant said he was unsure who would start in goal, a decision that will be made by goaltending coach Dave Prior.
Forward Ryan Reaves was back at practice Saturday, 24 hours after he received stitches for a cut near the bridge of his nose suffered when he was nicked by a skate.
“Everything’s good,” Reaves said. “The doctor said my modeling career’s still intact, so my spirits are high.”
Skate to the face yesterday
back on the ice today
nbd, just Ryan Reaves ¯_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/bBHSQHFZEW
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) September 15, 2018
Gallant said the cut was never a concern.
“He got a bad gash yesterday, and they stitched him up,” the coach said. “He felt good today, and there were no signs of headaches or anything, so he wanted to skate. He’s working hard and trying to earn his money. That’s what he says every day.”
Forward Alex Tuch had rave reviews for new teammates Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, a trio that could be the Knights’ second line this season.
“They’re unbelievable guys,” Tuch said. “I sat next to them at them at dinner and we were already cracking jokes. They’ve been around the block. It will be great to be on the same team. I’m going to try to learn as much as I can from them.”
Tuch also offered kind words about Nick Holden, who made an immediate impression when he learned Tuch was moving into a new place.
“He was like, ‘Hey, do you need a bookshelf?’” said Tuch, who also got an office table and desk chair out of the deal. “It was cool how everyone meshed right away.”