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Golden Knights get break to heal, regroup after blowout loss

Updated October 15, 2021 - 4:17 pm

Robin Lehner said Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings was the worst game he’s seen the Golden Knights play since he arrived — 65 regular-season and 39 postseason games ago.

The team doesn’t have the luxury of turning the page quickly, either. The Knights get to stew in this one.

That’s because they’re beginning their longest break of the season — outside of the potential Olympic stoppage — and don’t play again until a Wednesday date with the St. Louis Blues. It’s two days longer than any other gap on the schedule.

The team will use that time to regroup, recharge and figure out what happened.

“Usually you say in this league, if you have a bad one it’s nice to get back next day and play one,” Lehner said. “But you know what? At the end of the day, there’s some new systems and stuff that I think these five days can be good. I know our group. We hate losing, and we’re going to take a look at this and fix it.”

The Knights’ first two performances haven’t been up to their usual standard.

They defeated the Seattle Kraken 4-3 in their opener, but let a 3-0 lead slip away. Then they went to Los Angeles and were outworked by a Kings team playing its home opener.

The Knights allowed six goals and lost by four once each last season. Both happened Thursday. The scoreboard also didn’t exaggerate how the ice was tilted. The Knights allowed 47 shots on goal, tied for the second-highest total in team history. It was the most they’ve given up under coach Pete DeBoer.

Lehner said the effort “should be a red flag.”

“You can say whatever you want about it, we just have to play better,” right wing Reilly Smith said. “I think everyone in our locker room knows that we didn’t have the best effort tonight, and we have to change it. Thankfully it’s just one game, but we have to learn from it.”

The Knights have practices scheduled for Saturday, Monday and Tuesday to work through their issues. They also hope the time off allows them to heal and get closer to their ideal lineup.

The forward group has had numerous absences in the first two games. Centers Nicolas Roy and Brett Howden are on injured reserve, left wing William Carrier is in concussion protocol and left wing Mattias Janmark is in COVID-19 protocols. Captain Mark Stone left in the second period Thursday with an apparent injury and didn’t return. There has been no update on his status.

All those blows mean the Knights have had to shuffle through their depth quickly. Top prospect Peyton Krebs made the opening-night roster out of camp and played in the first two games. Center Jake Leschyshyn and right wing Jonas Rondbjerg made their NHL debuts Thursday.

All three were sent to the Silver Knights on Friday before the team’s opener against the Colorado Eagles. Henderson also plays Sunday, so the three have a chance to play during the break while waiting to see if the NHL club will still need them by Wednesday.

“It was kind of a tough game,” Rondbjerg said. “We didn’t play so well. Still a cool experience. I guess we’ll see what happens now.”

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights will look to improve without an opponent to test themselves against. They have a break to tighten things up — like a new neutral-zone forecheck they’ve implemented — and come back better.

“We’re going to take the five days,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to practice. We’ve got to get healthy. We want to get some of these bodies back and then we’ve got to work at our game. This is going to be a work in progress. But I think this wasn’t about X’s and O’s. I thought they won all the one-on-one confrontations for the puck. They were the hungrier team in a lot of areas.”

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

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