Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty have shouldered a heavy offensive workload for the Golden Knights all season. Lately, they’ve added extra defensive responsibility too.
Monday marked the third straight home game the two wings and center William Karlsson were tasked with slowing down the opposing top line. It’s a new challenge for Stone and Pacioretty with the Knights, but they’ve proved more than capable so far.
“They’re an elite group,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Sticking (Karlsson) in the middle there obviously helps. What I like about them is they can create offense but you can also play them in any defensive situation and feel comfortable.
”That’s a sign of a real, true No. 1 line when you can put them out there in both situations any time of the game.”
Karlsson has long thrived as a two-way cornerstone for the Knights. He’s in his third season of shutting down visiting stars.
For most of the last two-plus seasons he’s done so with wings Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, but DeBoer is doing something different in his first extended Knights homestand. He placed Karlsson between Pacioretty and Stone in the second period of the team’s 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 11 and has kept them together since.
“He’s got a lot of speed,” Pacioretty said of Karlsson. “Lot of poise as well.”
DeBoer hasn’t hesitated to throw Karlsson into the fire in his first games back from a broken finger.
Karlsson, Pacioretty and Stone have received the bulk of 5-on-5 playing time against the St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders and Washington Capitals’ top lines the past three games. In that span they have an 33-14 advantage in shot attempts facing those lines and a 17-5 edge in scoring chances.
They’ve controlled play despite each matchup being different. The Islanders have a speedy top line with center Mathew Barzal but the Capitals have an older unit with veterans Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin.
“Being able to play against different types of players, different types of top players like that is kind of what’s needed,” Pacioretty said. “I thought we did a good job of that tonight and (we) got to keep going that way.”
Center Tomas Nosek was happy to downgrade to a visor Monday after sporting a full faceshield the previous five games. Nosek had worn the faceshield since taking a puck to the face Feb. 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It was a little annoying,” Nosek said of his old headgear. “You couldn’t see through the bottom.”
DeBoer doesn’t mind early start
DeBoer was fine with arriving at T-Mobile Arena a little early Monday. The coach said he was a fan of the 3:07 p.m. faceoff against the Capitals.
“It’s a nice change of pace,” DeBoer said. “You get this deep in the season, any time you can change the routine a little bit, I think it’s a little bit exciting.”