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3 takeaways from Knights’ preseason opener: Left wing options compete

It took one shift and one shot for the San Jose Sharks to spoil the Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights’ return to the ice Sunday night.

Defenseman Henry Thrun scored from the point 24 seconds into the preseason opener for both teams to kick off a 5-2 win for the Sharks at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. San Jose led 3-0 halfway through the first period and 4-1 at the first intermission, rolling from there to kick off its exhibition season.

The Knights, 103 days after celebrating their first title, weren’t sharp after kicking off training camp with three long days of practices Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They were called for three penalties in the first period alone. That was more of an issue than normal, given the team has yet to run special teams drills.

The Knights still have six exhibition contests remaining to get ready for their Oct. 10 opener at home against Seattle, including another preseason game at 6 p.m. Monday in Colorado.

“Obviously, wasn’t a great start for us,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “But overall, felt pretty good coming off it. You always want to win. We didn’t have a great start, but we kind of built our game. We did a lot better in the second and the third.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Left wing lowdown

The main competition in Knights’ camp is who will play third-line left wing next to center William Karlsson. All four candidates were in the lineup Sunday.

Each had their moments.

Pavel Dorofeyev made the splashiest play of the day, setting left wing Ivan Barbashev up for the Knights’ first goal with a pass from behind the goal line. Coach Bruce Cassidy also said Dorofeyev’s line with Barbashev and center Bryon Froese had the fewest issues defensively on the night.

“He’s got a wicked shot and he’s got so much poise, so those two things together, when he gets the puck, he’s lethal from anywhere, as you saw last year,” Froese said.

Paul Cotter fired three shots on goal and got the secondary assist on the Knights’ second goal by center Brett Howden. Brendan Brisson, the team’s 2020 first-round pick, had three shots as well. He competed hard on the forecheck, but did have a turnover under pressure in his own zone that led to the Sharks’ fifth goal.

Max Comtois, in camp on a professional tryout agreement, drew two penalties. He was shaken up with 3:12 left in the second period after being hit late and low by Sharks defenseman Kyle Burroughs, but didn’t miss a shift.

2. Patera’s tough night

It was a game to forget for the Knights’ No. 3 goaltender.

Jiri Patera gave up three goals on the first six shots he faced, with the Sharks getting a lot of quality looks early. He finished with 13 saves through two periods in the loss. Goaltender Jesper Vikman, the Knights’ 2020 fifth-round pick, stopped all three shots he faced in the third.

Patera may still get an opportunity to bounce back this preseason with six games remaining. The 24-year-old showed plenty of promise last year, posting a .911 save percentage in 31 games with the Silver Knights. Patera also went 2-0 in the NHL. The four points he picked up were massive for the Golden Knights in their fight for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

“We liked what we saw with Jiri,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said at the start of camp. “If we had an injury, he’d be called upon.”

3. Extensions see early returns

Only four players from the Knights’ Cup-clinching lineup played Sunday — Barbashev, Howden, McNabb and defenseman Shea Theodore.

It’s no surprise then that Barbashev and Howden were the team’s goal scorers. Both are looking to build off strong seasons after signing extensions with the Knights in the summer.

Barbashev, who inked a five-year, $25 million contract this summer, had an impressive backhand finish for the Knights’ first goal. Howden, who got a two-year, $3.8 million deal, deflected a point shot from defenseman Daniil Chayka to score the team’s second.

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

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