weather icon Clear

Return of Nate Schmidt major, not magical for Golden Knights

EDMONTON, Alberta — When the Golden Knights step on the ice to face the Oilers on Sunday night, they will again have the services of a dynamic, two-way playmaker who is as strong a presence in the locker room as he is on the blue line.

What they will not have is a magic elixir that will instantly solve all their problems.

Nate Schmidt’s return from a 20-game suspension for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy comes at a pivotal time. The Knights have stumbled out of the gates this season and sit 8-11-1 at the hypothetical quarter point in the season.

The offense has been sporadic and the defense vulnerable. Schmidt helps in both areas.

“He’s one of our best players so he’s going to make a difference all over the ice — I hope,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “Always a solid guy, moves the puck, skates well. You know what kind of player he is and he’s a big part of our group, so hopefully he’s going to make a big difference.”

The Knights know they must be careful to not believe the Band-Aid of Schmidt’s return can fix a gaping wound that has left them with one of the worst records in the league.

“Sure, Nate is a guy that plays a lot of big minutes,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “He plays a lot on both sides of the ice. He plays in the defensive zone and contributes on offense, also. It will be great to have him back, but we can’t rely on him to fix all of our problems and think we’re going to win every game just because he’s back. It’s more than that. We’ve got to figure it out.

“We’ve got to find a way together, not wait for anything to save us or anyone to save us.”

Schmidt was a major part of last season’s success.

He played in all situations, often paired with Brayden McNabb against the opponent’s top line.

It’s unclear how quickly Gallant will choose to fully integrate Schmidt back into all his regular roles.

McNabb said after Friday’s loss he wasn’t even sure they’d be paired together right away, but he knows how valuable Schmidt can be to a team searching for answers.

“Everyone knows how good he is and he brings a lot of energy to this team,” McNabb said. “It’s a spark we’re going to need. It’s been a frustrating first 20 games, but we’ve got a positive thing with him coming back and I know he’s excited. So we’re excited, too.”

Schmidt’s return will allow the rest of the defensemen to settle into more comfortable roles, but he also plays a valuable offensive role as he is adept at pushing the puck up the ice and starting the transition.

The Knights are scoring just 2.45 goals per game after averaging 3.27 over 82 games last season. They are allowing 2.85 per game this season, up from 2.74.

“He’s got speed and he moves the puck really well,” McNabb added. “When you combine that, he kind of keeps everything going and allows our forwards to use their speed with him moving the pucks to them and him getting up on the ice helps offensively. Plus, he’s got a great stick and he’s good defensively so when you’ve got a two-way guy like that coming back, it’s huge for us.”

Schmidt, who led the Knights in time on ice, had five goals and 31 assists last season. He was behind only McNabb among defensemen with a plus-19 rating. Shea Theodore and Colin Miller lead all Knights’ defensemen in assists with six this year.

“It’s more than just hockey-wise, too,” forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “We all know he’s a great player. But locker room-wise with his attitude and everything, this is always a guy you miss. It’s fun to have him back.”

The Knights know Schmidt can’t fix everything, but his return comes at a valuable time.

“He’s a real good player,” Gallant said. “He makes a big difference in your lineup, no doubt about that. But we’ve got to be better.

“To a man, we’ve got to be better.”

Schmidt will be in the lineup at Rogers Place when the puck drops Sunday at 5 p.m.

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Golden Knights Videos
Golden Knights Watch Party At Las Vegas Ballpark - Video
The Golden Knights host a watch party at the Las Vegas Ballpark where fans gathered to watch the game against the Pittsburg Penguins.
Golden Edge Mailbag | October 17th, 2019
The Review-Journal's Ben Gotz and Cassie Soto are back for a new rendition of the Golden Edge mailbag! Send in your VGK questions, and they'll answer them live on the stream.
Malcom Subban Day-To-Day, Gallant Talks Golden Knights' Goaltenders - VIDEO
After suffering an undisclosed lower body injury in a loss to the Arizona Coyotes, Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban was announced as having a day-to-day injury when head coach Gerard Gallant spoke about his goaltenders after practice.
Golden Knights lose 4-1 to Coyotes - VIDEO
The Golden Knights lost 4-1 to the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale. VGK Goalie Malcolm Subban exited the game early with an injury and is Day-to-day.
Golden Knights Head Coach Gerard Gallant knows Coyotes are "very aggressive" - Video
The Golden Knights will head to Arizona to face the Coyotes on Thursday with hopes to bounce back from Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Bruins. Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant is fully aware that the Coyotes are a very aggressive team and knows his guys will have to match that speed.
Golden Knights Feast on Shark - Video
After swimming with (and defeating) the Sharks in their first two games of the season, the entire Vegas Golden Knights team feasted on their fair share of seafood at Zuma Las Vegas inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Golden Knights Greet Fans At Gold Carpet - Video
The Golden Knights walk the gold carpet before puck drop at their season opener against the San Jose Sharks at the T-Mobile Arena.
Golden Knights Hold Private Practice, Lunch for 1 October First Responders - Video
The Golden Knights held a private practice at City National Arena for first responders, Mandalay Bay employees and guests who were affected by the 1 October events. After practice, guests were able to meet the Golden Knights themselves to take pictures and get autographs.
Golden Knights Prepare to Honor Those Affected by 1 October - VIDEO
Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon discusses the teams upcoming practice which will honor those affected by the events on October 1, 2017. The team has invited guests including first responders, Mandalay Bay employees and others who were impacted. (Le'Andre Fox/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon Discusses Roster Updates - VIDEO
Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon discusses the teams roster and key injuries ahead of Opening Day (Le'Andre Fox/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Golden Knights Max Pacioretty on the Golden Edge Podcast - VIDEO
Vegas Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty joins the Golden Edge podcast to talk about the upcoming season for the Knights, the rivalry with the Sharks and the Pacioretty 67 burger.
Golden Knights Alex Tuch, Cody Eakin Injured in Preseason Loss to Kings
The Golden Knights not only lost to the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Friday night, the team also saw Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin head off the ice with injuries. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writers David Schoen and Ben Gotz give an update on the players injuries as well as discuss what went wrong for the Golden Knights.
Golden Knights Suffer Second Preseason Loss to the Kings - Video
The Golden Knights suffered the team's second loss of the preseason, this time to the LA Kings 3-2. Head coach Gerard Gallant knows his team got off to a sloppy start but was impressed with the final effort.
Golden Knights Forward Ryan Reaves wants to play in the pre-season - VIDEO
Golden Knights Forward Ryan Reaves talks about coming back from an injury and a possible long term deal with the team. September 26, 2019.
Golden Knights Head Coach Gallant speaks on injuries and cuts before last two pre-season games - VIDEO
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant speaks after practice on September 26, 2019, on injuries and cuts before last two pre-season games.
Golden Knights Suffer First Preseason Loss to Avalanche, 4-1 - Video
The Golden Knights suffered the team's first preseason loss, after falling to the Avalanche 4-1. Golden Edge host Cassie Soto and Golden Knights beat writers David Schoen and Ben Gotz break down what went wrong for the Golden Knights.
Golden Knights React to First Preseason Loss - Video
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant called the first loss of the preseason a "team loss" that was "tough to watch."
Paul Stastny On Playing More Games - Video
Golden Knights forward Paul Stastny talks about preparing for the regular season and playing more games before the season starts.
Golden Knights Nate Schmidt Talks About Seeking Change With PED Testing - Video
The Golden Knights wrap up their practice for the day and Nate Schmidt hoping to see changes to PED testing.
Nate Schmidt On Wanting Change With PED Testing - Video
Nate Schmidt speaks about wanting to see change with PED testing in the NHL.
Fleury and Marchessault Play Heads Up - Video
Golden Knights Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Marchessault play heads up VGK edition.
Aliens Invade City National Arena for Competition
Aliens attended the City National Arena for a competition to see who was best dressed. The prize was out of this world. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights rally to beat Kings in OT, 3-2
The Golden Knights were down 2-0 halfway through the third period, but two quick goals helped get the team back on track to beat the Kings 3-2 in overtime.
Golden Knights' Deryk Engelland Shares Advice with Rookies - Video
Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland has some advice for rookies: “Stick with what got you there.” The veteran NHL player also recalls his first goal as a pro.
Golden Knights Continue Preseason Success with Win Over Avalanche - Video
The Golden Knights prospects are continuing to prove they are worthy of a starting position, this time with a shutout 5-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Golden Knights Head Coach Gerard Gallant Praises Prospects - Video
A day after the Golden Knights 6-2 preseason victory over the Arizona Coyotes, head coach Gerard Gallant discussed how impressed he is with the prospects, including defensemen Nicolas Hague and Dylan Coghlan.
Golden Knights On First Preseason Win - Video
The Golden Knights talk about their first preseason win including Max Pacioretty's hat trick and putting Malcolm Subban as the goaltender for tonight's game.
Golden Knights Zamboni Lessons 101 - Video
The Golden Knights preseason tips off on Sunday, Sept. 15 and you know what that mean, it's time to roll out the zamboni! Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a zamboni operator for the Golden Knights? Golden Edge host Cassie Soto finds out!
Allegiant Unveils Golden Knights Plane - Video
Allegiant air officially unveils its new Golden Knights airbus that will take to the skies soon.
Golden Knights Rookie Camp: 3 Takeaways - Video
Vegas Golden Knights rookies took to the ice on Friday morning for practice at City National Arena. While the rookies mainly participated in drills, it was good to see the prospects get ice time. Golden Knights beat writers David Schoen and Ben Gotz discuss their three takeaways from the practice.
Golden Knights Host Charity Golf Classic - Video
The Golden Knights held its 2019 Charity Golf Classic on Wednesday at TPC Summerlin. Before teeing off, Golden Knights players Ryan Reaves, Jonathan Marchassault and Alex Tuch said who they thought were the worst and best golfers on their team.