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Lessons from Golden Knights’ 1st 10 days of training camp

The Golden Knights have fit plenty of action into the first 10 days of training camp.

They’ve held lengthy on-ice workouts. They’ve learned new systems, especially in the defensive zone. They’ve played four preseason games that have featured two blowouts, one with 28 combined penalty minutes and another with a 14-round shootout.

The next eight days, starting with Monday’s practice, are the stretch run. The Knights begin the season Oct. 11 at Los Angeles and need to be ready against a divisional opponent on the road. They have plenty of questions to answer before then, but they’ve already learned a lot about the team.

Here are three takeaways from camp:

1. Strong health, for now

This could be point one, two and three.

After having their season crushed by injuries last season, the Knights are enjoying a much healthier camp. Left wing William Carrier is the only player out, with a midbody injury that will be re-evaluated this week.

That’s a far cry from last season. Captain Mark Stone and defensemen Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb left the first preseason game with injuries. Goaltender Robin Lehner was pulled from a start after two periods out of precaution. Centers Nicolas Roy and Brett Howden suffered camp injuries that kept them out of the season opener.

The Knights started this preseason with Lehner and center Nolan Patrick already out for the season and several other players, such as goaltender Laurent Brossoit and defenseman Daniil Miromanov, recovering from offseason surgeries. But camp has also allowed others to prove they’re healthy. Stone played his first preseason game Friday after undergoing back surgery in May.

“I feel good,” Stone said. “Anytime I felt bad last season it was right after the game. I feel comfortable. Now it’s about getting timing, getting reps, getting to feel comfortable with linemates, systems and just getting ready for opening night.”

2. Goaltender battle

The Knights are down to two goaltenders in camp: Logan Thompson and Adin Hill.

The final three preseason games won’t be about who makes the roster. They will be about who gets the first start.

Thompson seems to be the leader. He’s been excellent through two games, saving 33 of the 34 shots he faced. The lone goal the 25-year-old rookie gave up was on a rebound Sept. 28 against Colorado.

He took the blame for it.

“One little error and it’s in the back of the net, but that’s what preseason is for,” Thompson said. “It’s just to clean up little things like this.”

Hill has had a rougher go. He’s given up nine goals on 48 shots in 91:30. The Knights have asked more of him. Thompson has faced four high-danger shots this preseason, according to the website NaturalStatTrick. Hill has seen 15 and allowed seven goals in his first full start Friday.

3. Roster nearly set

The Knights are almost down to their opening-night roster after trimming it to 25 on Saturday.

The goaltenders are set. Left wing Paul Cotter, center Jake Leschyshyn and right wing Jonas Rondbjerg are competing to stick around. Defensemen Jake Bischoff and Kaedan Korczak are competing on the blue line.

Reducing the group to NHL players and roster hopefuls lets coach Bruce Cassidy focus on system work, special teams and situational hockey. Veterans will play a lot in the final three preseason games.

The group could change. Injuries could arise. Restricted free-agent defenseman Nic Hague might sign a new contract.

But the team is down to its final roster battles.

“You’ve played your games, you’ve been at training camp, hey, we’re not nearly where we need to be,” Cassidy said. “There comes a time you need to be with your group. Now let’s drill down on the guys that are going to be here and let’s get to work.”

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

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