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Golden Knights make wise decision to rest Fleury, play Subban

Updated February 17, 2019 - 12:46 am

Hold those thoughts on the Strip going dark any time soon.

The Knights won a home game. Las Vegas can breathe again.

We return you to your regularly scheduled lives.

Gerard Gallant on Saturday night tinkered with his lineup in key spots and smartly chose to sit a familiar face in another, the coach’s moves leading to a 5-1 victory against Nashville before an announced gathering of 18,430 at T-Mobile Arena.

And so snaps a team-record five-game home losing streak.

And so calms the nerves of those Knights fans losing their minds about the team’s recent struggles.

The changes that will get most attention are switching Max Pacioretty to the third line and elevating Brandon Pirri to the second, ones that more than paid off as both players scored, with the former finding net twice.

But perhaps the smartest call was giving backup goalie Malcolm Subban the start over Marc-Andre Fleury, whose play of late absolutely suggested the grind of leading the NHL in starts has produced a tuckered veteran.

Gallant doesn’t seem the wild and crazy type, but here’s an idea if he wants to wear a lampshade the next few days:

He should start Subban at Colorado on Monday.

Now, I realize that the mere thought of Fleury sitting consecutive games around here is like suggesting owner Bill Foley wear a Navy football T-shirt, but shouldn’t resting Fleury finally be a long-term view?

Fleury has allowed 19 goals his past five starts. He’s also the only Knights player not to have enjoyed a true All-Star break, given he was in the game and beholden to all the events in and around the showcase.

He’s likely as mentally fatigued right now as he is physically.

Subban shook off some rust early Saturday — it was his first start since Jan. 6 and he just recently came off the injured reserve — and then settled into eventually stopping all but one of 27 shots.

“You don’t want to get too high on your wins or too low on your losses,” Subban said. “That’s the biggest thing, especially as a goaltender. You have a bad game or you lose, you don’t get down. You just try to keep an even keel. You try to correct your mistakes.

“It’s not easy to do. I’m not trying to say it like it’s easy, but you try your best to not get down and get ready for the next game and correct your mistakes and forget about it and move on.”

Change for change

People often resist change. Makes them feel uneasy. Uncomfortable. Downright edgy.

Gallant is in his eighth season as an NHL coach, his second with the Knights, and hasn’t been one to alter a lineup for the sake of it. His moves are almost always motivated by some specific cause, be it injury or strategy.

He doesn’t do things for the heck of it.

He sort of did this time.

“I wouldn’t say never, but once in a while, I’ve changed things for the sake of it just to see how players react,” Gallant said. “I don’t do it too often. I think players understand. You have changes throughout a season for different reasons. It’s not that big a deal.

“(Subban) was great. He came off the IR and got some good practice time in with (goalie coach Dave Prior) and our team. He was sharp and looked good and looked focus and made some incredible saves.”

The Knights had dropped seven of their past nine and eight of the previous 11, a stretch that caused some to believe talk of catching Calgary and San Jose in the Pacific Division should have been replaced with concern of being caught by fourth-place Vancouver.

Not really. The Canucks — nine points back of Gallant’s team — likely aren’t catching the Knights.

I’m also not sure the Knights — nine points shy of the two teams in front — can track down the Flames or Sharks.

Third place and a road playoff game to begin the postseason appears as good a bet as any right now.

But that’s for the next month or so to determine.

For now, put all those sharp objects away.

The Knights won a home game, and the Strip remains lit.

Breathe, Las Vegas.

And hope Gallant really gets wild and crazy and starts Subban a second straight game come Monday.

It will be best for all involved, especially the guy getting some needed rest.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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