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Peter DeBoer leans on Marc-Andre Fleury as playoffs near

Updated February 11, 2020 - 6:25 pm

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Marc-Andre Fleury led the Golden Knights onto the Xcel Energy Center ice for warmups, skated around his zone and flung a puck at an empty net before Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.

It’s Fleury’s normal pregame routine, and it’s become increasingly commonplace under coach Peter DeBoer.

DeBoer has leaned hard on Fleury as the Knights try to solidify a playoff spot. The 35-year-old goaltender has started eight of nine games since the team’s coaching change.

That might be the norm. DeBoer said he doesn’t have a set rotation in mind for Fleury and backup Malcolm Subban.

“We’re in the sprint to the finish here, and we’re fighting for our playoff spot,” DeBoer said. “We’re going to put the best lineup and the best starter out there to give us a chance to win every night. This isn’t preseason planning where you can map out ‘We want so many games for this guy or so many games for that guy.’ That’s in the rearview mirror.”

Fleury has started 15 of the last 17 games despite not having one of his strongest seasons. His save percentage (.906), goals-against average (2.82) and goals saved above average (-3.78) entering Tuesday’s game at Minnesota were below his career norms.

Still, DeBoer hasn’t hesitated to lean on the likely future Hall of Famer, who has the fifth-most wins in NHL history. Subban’s only game under the new coach was Jan. 31 at Carolina, when Fleury was suspended for skipping the All-Star Game.

Subban (.897 save percentage, 3.04 goals-against average) has struggled while starting sporadically. He won his last start against the Hurricanes, but it’s unclear when his next one will come.

“If I think one of them’s tired, the other guy will go,” DeBoer said. “If I think one guy is going to give us a better chance to win tonight, then he’s going to play.”

Tuch on Zucker’s trade

The Knights didn’t play against Las Vegas-raised left wing Jason Zucker on Tuesday after the 28-year-old was traded from the Wild to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

Right wing Alex Tuch, who was briefly teammates with Zucker in Minnesota in 2017, wished the speedster nothing but the best.

“He was really nice when I was called up for the first time, someone I looked up to,” Tuch said. “He’s an unbelievable player. It will be interesting to see how it goes.”

Zucker played for the Penguins on Tuesday on a line with center Sidney Crosby.

Whitecloud returns to Minnesota

Tuesday’s game was something of a homecoming for rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud, who played more than 200 miles from Xcel Energy Center at Bemidji State University.

But Whitecloud didn’t have a large Beavers’ contingent in the stands because school was in session.

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

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