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‘Can’t get too down’: Knights hope to end offensive woes on road trip

The Knights packed their bags after a brief stop at home and hit the road for another three-game swing that starts with a 6:30 p.m. Monday game in Calgary.

They hope there are some goals in their suitcases, though they are going to have to find a way to jump-start the offense without defenseman Shea Theodore. He missed Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury and was placed on injured reserve Sunday.

Without Theodore, the Knights got shut out for the third time in six games and were blanked at home for the first time in nearly a calendar year Saturday night in a 2-0 loss to the Coyotes.

Coach Bruce Cassidy expressed frustration after the game that some of his top players appearing unwilling to do the little things necessary to help a struggling offense.

He was much more cerebral about the predicament after a Sunday morning film session and a practice that focused largely on getting back to fundamentals.

“We showed a lot of the scoring chances from our road trip,” Cassidy said. “We had five road games and probably had 30 chances, most of them grade A, and we scored one. So are we going to get down because we’re not scoring, or get excited because we’re getting the opportunities and eventually we know we will score? So that was the message. We can’t get too down on ourselves, because the opportunities are there.”

Cassidy and the players don’t want to overthink the issue.

“I think sometimes you just have to come back to basics,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “For me, I have to maybe go to the net and get some goals. Sometimes there’s some loose change there, and those goals are sometimes a little easier to come by than opening up for a one-timer. It’s on me to get to the hard area.”

That’s exactly the message Cassidy is trying to deliver. He knows there’s not a player in hockey who isn’t focused on scoring once he has the puck in a good position, but goals are usually the result of the work done to get to those areas.

“You can try harder to get to areas to score,” he said. “You can try harder to get to the inside. You can try harder to fight for a rebound. You can try harder to be the first to pucks on the forecheck or the second on the puck to create the next play. So yes, you can try harder. Once the puck is on your stick, if you’re not trying hard to score, then you have a problem and you’re probably not going to be in the league very long.

“I think most guys are pretty focused on scoring once they’re in position to actually do it. It’s leading up to that process where we can try harder to work back for a puck, try harder to be available for an outlet.”

One of the dangers of focusing so much on the drought is that it can become a weight that must be removed before you can move forward.

Forward Nic Roy echoed Cassidy’s belief that the attention needs to be on creating opportunities, not necessarily obsessing over putting it in the net.

“Obviously, we have to find ways to score goals,” he said. “You can find ways to work harder. Get to the net front where it hurts. I’d say it’s more working harder, but when you have the puck, you can’t work harder. You have to be smooth about it and feel confident.”

It’s not all gloom and doom around the Knights, of course. Despite the three recent shutouts and being held to just 11 goals in the last six games, they still sit atop the Western Conference standings with 30 points as they embark on this swing through western Canada.

“The mood is fine,” Cassidy said. “We have some guys who are down and feel like they’re not contributing because they’re not scoring, so there’s that part. But you deal with that all year. You can win 10 in a row and have two or three guys upset that they’re not pitching in. So you always balance that. The mood of the team is good.”

One of those players could be center Chandler Stephenson, who has just two goals in 17 games this season and hasn’t scored since Oct. 14.

It’s a drought of 14 games for one of the team’s most talented players. Cassidy did not single him out, but they did have an extended discussion on the ice during practice.

Another of their most offensive-minded skaters, Paul Cotter, has gone 10 games without a point or an assist after recording three goals in the previous five games.

“A few guys are going through that time of, ‘I’d like to be able to help the team more by scoring,’” Cassidy said. “Maybe a few more than you’d like at once. Sometimes teams can end up in a bit of a tailspin when that happens, but that’s not happening to us. …

“Our team defense has been pretty consistently good, so the guys can hang their hat on that. It’s one of the reasons our record is what it is, and we’ve been able to allow guys to play through scoring slumps. That’s a positive. No matter what, we’re still in the game. We’re right there.”

After Calgary, the Knights head to Edmonton on Tuesday and Vancouver on Thursday.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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