In baseball, it’s normal for a team to arrive in a city and spend four or five days. At least it used to be.
With baseball teams playing more two-game series than in the past, setting up camp in a town isn’t as common these days. But you still see four-game series more often than not.
In hockey, scheduling is more like a rock music tour. Show up, play and get out of Dodge to the next stop. It’s rare an NHL team gets to stay in one place for more than a day or two.
However, there’s one exception.
The New York metropolitan area has three NHL teams — the Rangers, the Islanders, and the Devils, and when the schedule-makers are kind, they give a visiting team a chance to play all three teams in a single span.
The Golden Knights are one of those teams that were given that opportunity. They’ll play all three New York-area teams over five days, beginning tonight in Brooklyn against the Islanders at the Barclays Center. Friday, they travel across the Hudson River to face the Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark. The New York trip wraps up Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.
Oh, and there’s one more leg of this trip, and it’s a big one. Monday, the Knights play the Blue Jackets in Columbus on the second of a back-to-back. The good news is with the Rangers game in the afternoon, they’ll get to Ohio’s capital at a reasonable hour Sunday night and should get a good night’s rest for Monday against the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division.
The team arrived in New York late Monday afternoon and set up camp at a hotel in lower Manhattan. They’ll be there until Sunday. The benefits are obvious. No planes. No switching hotels. It’s a chance to do some team bonding, most likely a nice dinner in Manhattan, though it would be cool for the Knights to do some fun things — maybe a visit to Rockefeller Center, or a trip to the 9/11 Museum, located a few blocks from the team’s hotel. Maybe an outdoor practice at the Wollman Rink in Central Park. Or perhaps everyone jumps on the subway to travel to Brooklyn for the morning skate Wednesday instead of being stuck in traffic on the team buses.
Now THAT would be team bonding.
If they did that, maybe they’d run into Ken, who is in New York and will be at Barclays Center tonight and will be taking the subway from his upper west side Manhattan hotel.
It’s going to be nice, just to go to our room for a full week. No planes, no time difference or flying around, so I think it’ll be good. -Marc-Andre Fleury
Whatever happens, the players will get into a routine they normally don’t get to experience while on the road. It’s easy on everyone, from the equipment staff to Rick Braunstein, who oversees the team’s travel. In fact, navigating the traffic to Brooklyn and to Newark will be the biggest challenges.
If you’re Gerard Gallant, you need to take full advantage of this opportunity. It’s unique and rest is one of the most important commodities a player has. They’ll get plenty of it and there’s no reason why the Knights shouldn’t come out playing fast and with some jump, especially Wednesday against the Islanders, the only team in the NHL they’ve yet to register a victory against.
Well I hope so because we moved around a lot the first half of the season. We played a ton of road games. You know the time zones switching a lot, our team was little bit tired from that but I think our team got rejuvenated (Sunday). We are going to play three games in the New York area and I think that’s going to really help us. -Gerard Gallant
There are two things to keep an eye on as this trip begins.
One is the return of Paul Stastny. The center has played in just three games and he has been out since Oct. 8. He is on the trip and according to Gallant, could return as early as tonight against the Islanders. With Reid Duke having been returned to Chicago Monday, the path is cleared for Stastny’s return.
If Stastny is inserted in the lineup as expected, where does Gallant play him? Does he automatically return to his spot on the second line and skate with Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch? Or does Gallant leave Cody Eakin there, where he and the entire line have played well the past few weeks, and play Stastny on the third line with Tomas Nosek and or Ryan Carpenter or Oscar Lindberg? (He practiced with Nosek, Carpenter, ans Lindberg on Tuesday in Brooklyn.)
If Stastny had been out a week or even two, I’d say put him back on the second line. But we’re talking over two months of inactivity. He’s going to need some time to get his rhythm back and it would be tough to justify taking Eakin, who is tied for the team lead in goals with 11, off that line.
It’s easier for Stastny to play on the third line, get his sea legs and then make a decision whether or not to move him up.
The other thing to watch is Fleury.
He has played 10 straight games, including a pair of back-to-backs, and the fear is Fleury is going to wear down and not be fresh for the postseason, assuming the Knights make the playoffs.
As most of you know, the decision who to start in net is a collaborative effort between Gallant and Dave Prior, the team’s goaltending coach. Usually, Gallant defers to Prior, who makes his decisions based on a number of factors.
At some point, Malcolm Subban is going to have to get a turn in net and Gallant acknowledged as much.
I expected Subban to play last week. First, I thought he would be in goal against Chicago. And when he wasn’t, I fully believed he would play against Los Angeles. Neither happened and it has become an exercise in futility to attempt to guess along with Prior. I tried to do that last year and I was wrong more often than not.
Maybe Subban plays Friday against the Devils. That would be my best guess.
But in defense of playing Fleury so much, he is an amazing athlete. He keeps himself in tremendous shape. He is a veteran who knows how to get his rest and when to keep the gear off him. Witness his showing up at Sunday’s morning skate without his pads on.
I don’t decide. I think practice days are when I can tell him (Prior) that I’ve got no legs today and that I’m tired. I think this year, I’ve taken a few days off and practices off and being in the gym a little more and stuff like that. -Fleury
The schedule will also work in Fleury’s favor. The Christmas break is a couple weeks away. The team’s winter break in late January will also provide a chance for Fleury to rest up and re-boot for the second half of the season, including the stretch run come March.
But the Golden Knights’ focus needs to be on the present. They have a unique opportunity to pick up points on the road and continue their surge in the Pacific Division while bolstering their postseason resume. They need to take full advantage of the schedule.
Even if it means continuing to play No. 29, so be it.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**