The first day of an NHL training camp normally features rigorous fitness testing for players.
But when the Golden Knights showed up to City National Arena on Monday after four months on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was right to work.
No timed shuttle runs. No oxygen tests on the stationary bike. And defenseman Deryk Engelland was practically giddy about it.
“The best part: There’s no testing,” he said. “We’ve been working pretty hard the last five or so weeks on the ice. I think that’s going to pay off. We can step in and maybe work more on systems than getting back into shape because we’ve been doing it for so long as a whole group here.”
Camps opened around the league Monday after the NHL and NHL Players’ Association ratified the return-to-play guidelines and a new collective bargaining agreement Friday, paving the way for a 24-team postseason tournament.
Great to be back on ice with the whole team again. Boys are looking good.
— Robin Lehner (@RobinLehner) July 13, 2020
The Knights are scheduled to leave for Edmonton, Alberta, on July 26 and will play an exhibition game at a date to be determined.
The round robin begins Aug. 3 when the Knights take on Dallas before the Western Conference quarterfinals open Aug. 11.
The Knights had 31 of the 33 players on their training camp roster participate Monday. The team was divided into two groups and practiced for 30 minutes each before a 20-minute scrimmage.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury did not skate, and coach Pete DeBoer said it was a maintenance day that was not related to a positive COVID-19 test.
Also, 19-year-old center Peyton Krebs is expected to debut Tuesday after finishing the final day of his mandatory quarantine.
“Our message to the group today was I really liked how we were playing going into the pause,” said DeBoer, whose team won 11 of 13 to earn the Pacific Division title and a bye in the qualifying round. “I thought our systems were in a good place, we were starting to play seamlessly, we were able to plug guys in and out of the lineup and not lose a step.
“How do we get back to that again? For me, like any camp, it’s about starting with your foundation again and getting to that point again.”
DeBoer had four months to settle on his forward line combinations for the postseason and kept the top two lines intact to begin. William Karlsson centered Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, while Paul Stastny was flanked by Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith.
However, DeBoer tinkered with his bottom six, as Nicolas Roy started out centering the third line with Chandler Stephenson at left wing and Alex Tuch taking right wing. Tuch missed the final 12 games before the pause with a lower-body injury.
On the fourth line, Nick Cousins centered wings William Carrier and Ryan Reaves, while Tomas Nosek skated on a line with extra forwards Gage Quinney and Keegan Kolesar.
“We played a little bit together before the break,” Cousins said. “Hopefully we’ll find some chemistry here early on in camp. We still have two weeks here before we get going, but those two are fun guys to play with.”
Marchessault thinks this will be one of the most competitive Stanley Cup playoffs ever, with almost every team at full strength coming out of the pause. The left wing arrived at training camp with his beard in full playoff mode already.
“I had a longer one, but I shaved it and I regretted it right after it,” Marchessault. “So, after that, I just let it grow again and I’m ready for it.”
Golden Knights training camp roster
Forwards (18): Patrick Brown, William Carrier, Nick Cousins, Reid Duke, William Karlsson, Keegan Kolesar, Peyton Krebs, Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Nosek, Gage Quinney, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves, Nicolas Roy, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Chandler Stephenson, Mark Stone and Alex Tuch
Defensemen (12): Jake Bischoff, Dylan Coghlan, Deryk Engelland, Nicolas Hague, Nick Holden, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill, Nate Schmidt, Jimmy Schuldt, Shea Theodore and Zach Whitecloud
Goaltenders (3): Oscar Dansk, Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner
July 26 — Teams arrive in hub cities
July 28-30 — Exhibition games
Aug. 1 — Qualifying round begins
Aug. 10 — Phase Two of NHL draft lottery
Aug. 11 — First round begins
Sept. 22 — Stanley Cup Final begins
Oct. 4 — Last day Stanley Cup can be awarded
Oct. 9-10 — NHL draft