Updated August 5, 2020 - 6:45 pm
Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer is going back to the forward lines he started the postseason with for Thursday’s round-robin game against St. Louis.
That means, after a brief reunion, wings Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith will not skate with center William Karlsson.
But DeBoer knows he can always call on the trio if needed.
“That is a comforting thing to know you have in your back pocket,” he said.
Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith were one of the best two-way lines in the NHL the past 2½ seasons, controlling play with their speed and chemistry in all three zones.
Karlsson eventually settled into the No. 1 center role between leading scorers Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone.
In Monday’s round-robin opener against Dallas, Paul Stastny centered Marchessault and Smith for the first half of the game before DeBoer scrambled his lines with the Knights trailing 2-1 and struggling to generate scoring chances.
The move ignited Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith, who were mostly quiet to that point.
After producing two shot attempts and an assist while skating on the first line with Chandler Stephenson and Stone, Karlsson had five shot attempts (two on goal) in the third period, including an empty-net goal.
“I know them. I played with them a long time, so going back to them was kind of easy,” Karlsson said. “I know how they play and whatnot, so it was an easy transition for me.”
Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith also were part of the tying goal when defenseman Nate Schmidt hopped into the rush and cleaned up a loose puck after Smith’s pass went off a skate.
Marchessault registered both of his shots on goal in the third period with Karlsson as his pivot, and the unit finished with a 72.7 percent shot share at five-on-five, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Smith is the franchise leader in postseason scoring with 29 points (six goals, 23 assists) in 28 games, followed by Marchessault (27 points) and Karlsson (22 points).
“I think we’d be foolish to ignore the analytics and the success those three guys have had in the past,” DeBoer said. “On the nights where things aren’t working, we need to shake up the lineup, we need to shake up some individuals, there’s a comfort in knowing you can put those three guys together and there’s a real good chance they’re going to spark and have chemistry.”
During Wednesday’s practice in Edmonton, Alberta, Karlsson continued to skate with Stephenson and Stone. Pacioretty remains sidelined with a minor injury and is not expected to play against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues at Rogers Place.
Stastny was back between Marchessault and Smith, while the third line consisted of Nick Cousins, Nicolas Roy and Alex Tuch.
The Knights remain in the running for the first seed in the Western Conference and cannot finish lower than third. Colorado leads the round-robin standings with four points, two more than the Knights.
“I hated our first two periods the other night,” DeBoer said. “I think, when I sit back and look at it, though, and look at the game the next day, it wasn’t one or two guys that were off where you could make some changes. It was almost the entire team, except for a couple individuals.
“We’re not going to overreact to it. We’re going to go back to the same lineup and just chalk it up to a lack of energy and focus. I’m sure we’re going to be more dialed in (Thursday).”
Who: Golden Knights vs. Blues
When: 3:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Rogers Place, Edmonton, Alberta
TV: AT&T Sports Net (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
Radio: KKGK (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Knights -115; total 5½ u-130