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Golden Knights’ Gerard Gallant to stick with trusted top 6

Updated September 14, 2019 - 9:17 pm

Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone formed immediate chemistry while playing for Team Canada this spring.

It seems perfectly reasonable to speculate the high-scoring wingers could work equally well together on a line with the Golden Knights.

“I don’t care what they did in the world championships,” coach Gerard Gallant snarled.

Welp, so much for that.

The Knights fell from top five in the NHL in goals scored during their first season to middle of the pack, and the dip partly explains their 16-point difference in the Pacific Division standings.

But Gallant indicated after practice Saturday at City National Arena he has no intention of deviating from the top two forward lines he finished last season with in an effort to find more offense.

That means Marchessault with longtime linemates William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, and Stone skating with Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny.

“I know one thing: Stone and Pacioretty and Stastny played real well in the playoffs last year,” Gallant said. “You guys can say what you want about coaching, but they were pretty good. So, we’ll see where it goes.

“I don’t care if we get more goals as long as we get more wins. But it works hand in hand, obviously.”

Led by its dynamic first line of Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith, the Knights surprised even their coach during their inaugural season and ranked fifth in the NHL with 268 goals (3.27 per game).

The additions of Pacioretty, a five-time 30-goal scorer, and Stastny to a revamped second line was supposed to complement Karlsson’s line and provide even more offense.

But that took time to materialize, as Stastny missed three months after he was injured in the third game and opposing teams allowed the Knights’ speedy attack less time and space. Gallant even temporarily broke up the Karlsson line on a handful of occasions in an effort to ignite the offense.

The Knights finished 13th overall in scoring with 246 goals, more than a quarter of a goal per game difference (3.00 per game).

“I think the most important thing is to win games. If we win 2-1 instead of 6-5, it doesn’t really matter,” Karlsson said. “Definitely it was harder. We got a lot more respect after the first year, and it was tougher, for sure. I do remember we were struggling there in the beginning, but we figured it out and got going.”

The Knights, who open their seven-game preseason schedule against the Arizona Coyotes at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at T-Mobile Arena, improved their scoring output after acquiring Stone from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline in February.

In the final 19 games, the Knights averaged 3.32 goals, which ranked sixth overall.

The line of Pacioretty, Stastny and Stone combined for 13 goals and 18 assists in a seven-game loss to San Jose in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Stone had five goals and 11 points in 18 games with the Knights after the trade and notched career highs with 33 goals and 73 points in 77 games overall.

The hope is that a full season with Stone in the lineup to go with continued production from the Karlsson-Marchessault-Smith line will return the Knights to among the league’s elite offensive teams.

“Obviously you want your offense to be good, but we want as a team that our game is good,” Marchessault said. “I think we’d rather give up a lot less goals than score a lot of goals. Overall, I think our general play needs to be as a top team in the league.”

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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