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February Is More Than A Light Schedule For VGK

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Now that All-Star weekend is through, the Golden Knights will prepare for an extremely light February schedule. With only eight games this month Vegas will have a chance to take advantage of the unusual time between games. The Golden Knights’ first game of the month was last Tuesday’s 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres and have six days in between their next game.

Six days is normally an eternity for NHL teams to wait between games, but for VGK, it’s going to start to fee normal.

February Schedule (Days In Between Games)

February 1st: 5-2 win vs. BUF
February 8th: @ EDM (6)
February 9th: @CAL (0)
February 16th: vs. COL (6)
February 18th: vs. LAK (1)
February 20th: @ SJS (1)
February 25th: @ ARI (4)
February 26th: vs. COL (0)

Too Much Healing Time?

Will time off help or prolong injuries? Might seem like a stupid question but with so few games this month it may impact a player’s progression. Let’s be honest, Mark Stone’s back could use an easy month. He may be having fun shooting pucks in the Bellagio drink but chances are his back still aches. With a lighter than normal schedule, his soreness should decrease. Then there’s the Jack Eichel situation. A light month makes for more games in March and April in which the star center can build chemistry with his new teammates.

Pacioretty on the other hand needs more action. More games, more minutes, more shifts. The sharpshooting winger needs to get his accuracy, stamina and timing set for the postseason. If Pacioretty plays all remaining games in February he will have dressed for only 26 of them on 140 days. It’s difficult getting into a rhythm. Of course, you can say that for any player that misses extended amounts of time but Pacioretty is Vegas’ biggest offensive weapon. It’s likely the team won’t score enough if he’s running out of gas in a postseason game.

What Will The Division/Conference Look Like?

In the Pacific, Calgary and Edmonton will be on the ice more than the rest of the division. Vegas will see both on back-to-back nights after the All-Star break. Their first opponent, the Oilers have 12 games in February. The Flames are scheduled for 11 this month. Depending on how the perform both teams could make or break their season. Also, like Vegas, Anaheim and LA both have light schedules. It’s possible the extra days off disrupt either the young and energetic Ducks or overachieving Kings.

The Minnesota Wild will have two more games this month than the Golden Knights but currently have two more points in the overall conference standings. Vegas isn’t necessarily chasing a team from the Central but there’s a good chance they face off early in the postseason. As of right now, the Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues would duel it out in the opening round of playoffs. Not sure that’s the matchup Vegas wants to see first, although it’s not like Minnesota would be any easier.

Roster Configuration

It’s possible the Golden Knights roster this month will look much differently in March than it does right now. Without any additional injuries, Vegas will need to make room before Eichel’s highly anticipated debut. The front office will have to do more than massage the cap in order to make it happen. Difficult decisions will be made. By the end of this month is it possible we’ll get an idea of the front office’s plans.

Of course none of this discussion would have mattered had NHL players traveled to the Beijing Olympics. Under those circumstances, we would be arguing if time off would hurt Vegas’ momentum. However, the same salary cap strain exists so a trade or a player landing on LTIR would have to happen.

In short, the light month should benefit the Golden Knights. Lingering strains and tweaks could heal faster with fewer minutes and stress on the body. Extra practice time will help the coaching staff prepare Eichel for his on ice role, as well as allow more observation time for the front office. With only seven games remaining in the month, February should answer several questions.

Starting with, how did Alex Pietrangelo win the Breakaway Challenge?

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61 Comments

  1. Tim

    Not sure how the light schedule will effect the Knights performance but like you said for Stone it’s probably a good thing. I’m guessing after this Alberta trip the hammer may fall on one player to get the ball rolling. I’ll put my money on Dadonov not worth 5 million probably a bad signing from the get go. With Martinez on a sabbatical for who knows how long I’m guessing Eichel plays against LA and Colorado next week. They’ll be cap compliant and half way home to paying off the Eichel Debt. May have to add a sweetener to the Dadonov deal hopefully not.

    • knights fan in minny

      are they making bets at the sports book when jack plays

      • Jack Eichel = play-off time like TBL pulled the wool over everyone else last year. TBL obviously has a mgt team that thinks outside the box, and it paid off. Not sure what they could have up their sleeve for his year but who knows. The risk, reward and smart use of your assets says there is no value in Eichel being in the line-up before play-off time. He will be practicing etc with the knights and developing the chemistry everyone thinks is so important and barring any injury which if that happened being in the line-up before play-off time there goes the ace in the hole that you paid 10 mill for.

        • Pistol Pete

          I would bank on Eichel being activated when deemed ready. Today was his first contact practice. I realize waiting for the playoffs is an option but for VGK they may need Eichel to assure the highest possible seeding.

    • Pistol Pete

      Tim, were you at the practice today? Did not think to ask if it was you! In any case Eichel must have been cleared for contact because he did a full practice today.

      • Tim

        Pistol Pete no it wasn’t me at practice but how did Eichel look?

        • Pistol Pete

          He looked great both times I saw him practice. He’s one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and his shot is one of the best. Known for his playmaking as well. With him you also get one of the best athletes in the league and that is among players who are all exceptional athletes. He’s fast and physical with exceptional hands and stick. Both a finisher and playmaker. It would not surprise if they make their moves soon to debut him vs. COL next week or LAX two days later.

          Everybody there today except Whitecloud. Miromanov too who I suspect will travel but not dress. Lehner and Brossoit.

          • Pistol Pete

            LAK lol

          • Pistol Pete

            Oh and no Martinez. Ken tweeted it doesn’t sound like Martinez is going to play these next two games.

            I am wondering if Martinez stays out to make more room for Eichel.

          • Daryl

            Eichel is a good player, but you make him sound like the next Mario or Wayne. Only time will tell if he is a great player, but he will need to gel with his teammates. One thing he needs to do is work on his defense, which is not very good

          • knights fan in minny

            zac cannot catch a break he has been playing well

  2. Pistol Pete

    My first NHL full practice. Big workout for the players including fast mini scrimmaging drills. DeBoer manning the whistle and barking orders. Fascinating. Periodically breaking to review the charts. It was explained to me by two highly knowledgeable observers that these full practices are not that common requiring perhaps two days between games.

  3. Pistol Pete

    Actually per Ken Martinez did practice. Missed him. To guess he comes in around the same time
    as Eichel—if so he won’t be a cap saver.

  4. Pistol Pete

    According to Ken on Twitter, Eichel’s green jersey designated him as an extra rendering it unlikely he plays tomorrow or Wednesday.

  5. Daryl

    These extra long rest periods is great for those with injuries and at the same time it hurts new linemates and younger players. We’ll see the actual affects come next month, not this month

  6. True Eichel’s defensive capabilities will be tested. I suggested around the time he was acquired that he would put himself to DeBoer’s system on paper and study to prepare his role in it. We’ll see how he does. Looked decent in practice today. Makes sense he’ll be a team player and put defense first. He has the skating and stick to be an effective defender.

    • Daryl

      Here’s what worries me…. When VGK plays defense first they look great, but they don’t seem to play like that in most games or for entire games. Eichel has never been very good defensively or back checking… If he goes in with a full offensive mindset, I think VGK will suffer. I look at Petra, who was brought in for offense. When he jumps up in the offensive zone a lot, it does nothing but hurt the team defensively. If VGK has any chance of winning anything, they need a defensive first mindset and hopes of winning 2-1 thanks to great defense and good goaltending

      • Tim

        Daryl, Your always a good poster but I think your Penguin loyalty is got you a little down on Eichel. What I mean he can’t be as good as Mario. or Sidney being your hometown team. I just think your nit picking finding every senerio where he might fail and he may but he may also be what the doctor ordered.

        • Daryl

          Tim, I’m not sure what you are talking about? The only negative I’ve said about Eichel is his defense and that isn’t an unknown. My comment was how some were making him out to be the next Gretzky or Lemieux. He has a very very long way to go before anyone could compare him to those 2 or even Crosby.

          And I wasn’t being negative on him or VGK when I say they need a defensive first mindset if they want to go far in the playoffs.

          • Pistol Pete

            But his defense as you knew it at Buffalo is not necessarily what we will see at VGK, even right away. That’s a pretty reasonable inference imo. Your premise is his defense sucks, not a fair assumption in a new situation.

          • Daryl

            PP,
            I go based off what I have seen. You are correct, he could come in here and look completely different. But until then I simply go off what I’ve seen from his time in Buffalo. I also understand when playing on a bad team, stats can look worse than they are, but from and individual perspective, I haven’t been impressed ith his defensive play.

            Offensively he looks great. My only concern with his offense is how often he shoots. Iive heard comments from analysts about him being a little too selfish with the puck, but that isn’t always a bad thing, especially on the PP. Too many times players try to make the perfect pass instead of just shooting and seeing what happens. Does anyone have his shooting% handy?

          • Tim

            Daryl, I’m looking at the cup half full by this I mean I think Eichel will shine and I think he will be infectious to the rest of the team.I’m betting that everyone is going to have a little bounce in there step. I think there’s going to be a hunger like we haven’t seen since year one.

      • Galdom

        I think that is a legitimate concern. Eichel is coming from a horseshit organization with horrible player development and coaching. I’m pretty sure they’ve never asked him to play defence in Buffalo. Most superstars have never had to play defence until they became professionals. I would say it’s 50% on the organization to enforce it and 50% on Eichel’s willingness to do so. We just don’t know Eichel very well yet. Logic would dictate that he would be receptive to listening to VGK coaches in becoming a 2 way player since he had absolutely no team success in Buffalo. At least what we do know is what he will bring to this team offensively. It’s so exciting to bring in a gamebreaker like this especially when this team does struggle to finish scoring chances sometimes.

        • Pistol Pete

          I really think Eichel studied the team early on and knows backchecking is part of the program. He’ll be on it pronto.

          • Pistol Pete

            Hard to imagine Eichel not understanding back checking is a necessary piece in winning Cups. At Buffalo the team never even made the playoffs when he was on it. Who gave a shit about persistent back checking when he was there?

      • Galdom

        Playing great team defence takes sacrifice and discipline. I think what’s important is that we know they can. I don’t think they have to show all their cards in the regular season. When it’s necessary like on that tough road trip they just went through and of course when the playoffs come they will be able to do it.

        • Pistol Pete

          Jack is a smart enough guy. He knows it’s defense first with DeBoer. He spent a year at BU a decent place academically and he’s no dummy. I would be very surprised if came unprepared to play defense first. This team has been successful under DeBoer and he knows it. On being able to play perfect defense first every game I think it’s not really possible to pull that off due to some games being better than others. Some games you lose no matter what. The important part is to have the discipline and belief in the system.

          • Daryl

            But it isn’t defense first with PDB. And now with another offensive player like Eichel, I think they become even less defensive minded. We will see more offensive pushes from the Dmen. That game plan may end up working I just don’t like it and will be very skeptical of it until it proves me wrong.

  7. Eichel’s first VGK practice in a regular contact jersey (as stated above, I was in attendance):

    “The further along [Eichel] gets with this, the more exciting it gets for us,” Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said Friday during the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend. “This is a big step for him, big change. I think he’s excited to be on a team that can compete year in and year out. That’s the big thing for him. Different culture for him to come here where we’ve been successful since the franchise [has] begun.

    “The trickle-down effect of having [him in] the lineup, it’s going to be fun to see. It’s going to bring some good depth. We like where our lineup is, and when you add guys like him of his caliber, it’s only going to make us better.”

    “[Eichel] is one of the best skaters I’ve ever seen, easiest skaters I’ve ever seen,” Golden Knights captain Mark Stone said. “I think he’s going to help in pretty much every part of the game. He’s going to help us score goals, he’s going to help on the power play, [present] matchup problems. You’re adding one of the best centermen in the world into your lineup, however long it is, a month, two weeks, whatever it is.

    “You’re adding one of the best players on the planet.”

    “I think he can just come in and do his thing,” DeBoer said Friday. “He doesn’t have the pressure to carry a team, and I talked to him the other day. He’s never played an NHL playoff game yet, and I know that’s exciting for him. That’s a whole different level of hockey when you get to that time of year. So I’m excited for him because I think he’s going to excel in that type of game and I know he’s excited about the opportunity to play playoff hockey.”

    https://www.nhl.com/news/golden-knights-center-jack-eichel-a-full-contact-participant-at-practice-for-first-time/c-330571266

  8. Pistol Pete

    The reward in persistent back checking is the offensive opportunities created. That is very satisfying on good days.

  9. Pistol Pete

    Daryl you posted “Eichel has never been very good defensively or back checking”. I already countered that was Buffalo then and now it’s VGK—-two completely different situations. I really find it hard to believe you can think he’s not good at back checking. Any, I mean any player who can skate and most NHL do very well, can back check, especially Eichel who is one of the fastest.

    Another thing, DeBoer system is not defense first? Where have you been? He really stressed that the last road trip. All coaches understand the principle, the challenge is implementing it .

    • Daryl

      So, what are you basung your argument that Eichel can backcheck and play really good defense? He hasn’t done it since he’s been in the NHL so it sounds like blind faith. He might very well be very good at it, but I’m going off what’s been seen and not pure speculation.

      S for PDB, 3 games doesn’t mean it’s a system. And if your look at the last d same against FLA, they were very strong defensively in the first 2 periods, but then we saw the blueliners jumping nore and nore into the offensive zone, which is what they have been doing all season long

  10. Pistol Pete

    Perhaps Galdom or another sincere knowledgeable poster will continue this little debate. Not waiting with bated breath.

    • Daryl

      I asked a legit question…. I based my comment off what we have seen for several years. I was just wondering what you were basing your opinion on. Maybe you know something I don’t know.

      As you said, maybe someone else can fill me in on where this defensive trust is coming from. That’s fine if you don’t want to

  11. Pistol Pete

    To all sincere VGK fans:

    Perhaps we can take a poll (I’ll take votes now) on whether Eichel will show a plus +/- by end of his inaugural regular VGK season.

    I vote YES.

    I base this on logic. Because he’s a master player like all NHL’ers he understands the intrinsic value in defending first and exploiting the offensive opportunities as they arise. Problem is, on the wrong team, defense first is not possible to implement consistently. It takes the right coach and the right roster. Personally I am aware of his career -69, however this by no means means he is incapable of playing an effective two way game. Instead it more than likely means he was trapped in a minus situation defensively owing to the team structure he was in. Anyways, to assume a fast skater is incapable of back checking and a player with good hands can’t master the defensive stick is not rooted in logic. Furthermore Eichel would have to be stupid (which he is not) to not grasp the potential of a defense first strategy in winning a Cup, his ultimate goal. It’s really hard to imagine him not being a diligent back checker on the VGK. Not even rocket science, just very simple common sense logic.

    Tabulation thus far for: Will Eichel have a plus +/- at the end of his inaugural VGK regular season?

    YES-1
    NO-0

  12. Pistol Pete

    Another Eichel poll:

    In his very first VGK game will Eichel record both a point and a plus?

    I vote YES

    Current tabulation:

    YES-1
    NO-0

  13. Pistol Pete

    Obviously with Buffalo in games where he did not record a point, or when he did record points, he often had a minus resulting from poor five man defense when he was on the ice. Lousy team, lousy defense.

  14. Galdom

    My opinion. This team can play great defence and shut other teams down. When they are at their best and leading teams going into the third period, opposing teams sometimes go spurts of 10 to 15 minutes without even getting a shot on net. This is what has made them successful. Going to the final four in three of the last four seasons is successful. However, at times this team looks like it lacks finish. Playing very defensively also inhibits their chance of getting goals themselves. So I believe that in spite of past success to get over that hurdle they opened up their game more to generate more offence. The byproduct this season has been that they are allowing more high danger chances against and more goals. On that road trip I think they tried to get back to their old ways and played “playoff hockey.” I have no idea how Jack Eichel will fit into the lineup. Adding a player with that immense talent should make them better. Even though defence is more of a learned skill then God-given born skill some seem to not be able to do it that well. I don’t know if Jack Eichel is going to play defence like Patrice Bergeron or Ryan O’Reilly. I think it’s very important that he is not being asked to lead this group but instead to join it and be a part of the team. There won’t be a C or an A on his jersey.

    I think it is going to work extraordinarily well. I like to base my opinions on facts however this is clearly just an opinion as past performance does not indicate Eichel is great defensively. I agree with Darryl on that point.

    I look at a young man that’s not a kid anymore. He has gone through a traumatic experience in Buffalo. I assume that he is a better person having going through that and he will come in here and be absolutely electric.

    • Pistol Pete

      Nice post Galdom. On Daryl though he flat out implies Eichel can’t play defense whereas my view is he has not been put to the test on a team where the foundation is defense. I agree with you we don’t know yet how good he’ll be at but as you can tell I hypothesize he has the physical tools to make it work and quickly I theorize. Daryl has already bashed VGK for having poor defense so I know he can’t really agree with the premise of your post.

      • Daryl

        I never said he can’t play defense. I was asking why you thought he could play defense when nothing in his NHL past would say he can. If he can play defense and didn’t in Buffalo because they weren’t a very good team, then he was part of the problem. He may get to VGK and end up a defensive stud, but I’m just going off his past experience in the NHL which is how most are judged

        • Pistol Pete

          You said “Eichel has never been very good defensively or back checking” which implies he can’t play defense. He played in Buffalo for five years so he had plenty of chance to improve in your eyes. This is a stupid debate. It’s obvious with career -69 he has not been good defensively. Nobody contests that. What we contest is that VGK contrarian posters like you won’t concede it’s plausible, likely imo, that his two way game will develop on the VGK. Defense is part of the DeBoer structure, though you won’t admit that either, so Eichel would have to be a space cadet to not seize on the opportunity to use his gifts to become a good two way player. You’re just not really a VGK fan imo and refuse to appreciate the potential upside. True VGK fans are excited for his debut and tend to consider the upside including to his defensive game. You on going other hand are most happy to play the downside per usual when it comes to the VGK. How you live in NC are a Pens fan and inhabit this board is curious. I have my theories on it.

          • Daryl

            I hate to throw isukts but reading comprehension isn’t a strong suit of yours. I said Eichel has never played good defense in the NHL and that is based on his previous play. That doesn’t mean he can’t play good defense just that he hasn’t. And again, as for VGK defense, they are offensive minded and if you know anything about hockey it is very obvious. Blueliners continuously jump up in the offensive zone in order to create more offense, at a rate higher than other teams. VGK relies on stretch passes which are open because Forwards leave the defensive zone before they control the puck, similar to fast breaks in basketball. They specifically went after Petra because of his offensive skills.

            I would love to hear your theory on how I’m a VGK fan from NC. But I’ll save you the trouble. Before NC I lived near Pittsburgh where I really got into hockey,but that started when I lived in Colorado, it just didn’t take off til I moved out east. Due to my style of play and position, Engelland became my favorite player and I followed him to Calgary, although I was never a team fan there. I followed him again to vhk where I became a huge fan of the team. I’m pretty sure you had other thoughts but you would be wrong.

      • Daryl

        And I did not say VGK had poor defense, I said they offe sive minded which hurts them defensively. They played great defense on their previous road trip. I said in order for VGK to win, they have to concentrate on defense and not offense. Win games 2-1 instead of 4-3

        Martinez, Whitecloud and McNabb are very good defensive blueliners. Petra can back check but he has a lot of flaws in his defensive game. Hague has improved defensively and starting to use his size but he isn’t great on defense

  15. Galdom

    I don’t know if Darryl is flat out implying anything or his opinion is set in stone. I think he is just saying that based on Eichel’s history he is not sure if Eichel will be able to transition into a two-way player that championship teams need.

    I think some of us are cautiously optimistic but we are all excited at his soon to be debut.

    • Daryl

      Exactly, based on Eichel NHL history I don’t know if he can be a 2 way player. I’m not worried about his offense and I’m not bad mouthing him either. In fact my initial comment wasn’t even directed at him but more so the coach and his coaching philosophy now that they have another offensive minded player.

    • Pistol Pete

      Galdom, as you know I am a little north of being cautiously optimistic on the chances that Eichel will deliver a good defensive performance. Obviously it remains an unknown but given his speed, athleticism and hands he has the tools to become a great two way player. Other than desire and the willingness to adapt, all he needs is the speed and hands. He’s big too. Under the right circumstances I can see him staying back to cover the blue line when D go in. We’ll see—gjven his speed and playmaking ability he’ll probably be part of play much of the time on D rushes but not always.

      • Galdom

        Pistol Pete, I can’t wait. I think we are all excited. It’s one thing to trade for or sign elite talents like Alex Pietrangelo or Mark Stone but to have that opportunity to trade for Jack Eichel and be successful could be franchise altering. Usually you only get the opportunity to get a Jack Eichel if you are drafting first or second and in the right year. He could fit in seamlessly with a stone or patches but we could end up being quite surprised who ends up playing with Eichel.

        For anybody that’s ever followed Pittsburgh, Crosby didn’t always play with the most talented linemates. Malkin would get guys like Kessel and James Neal and Crosby would get grinders like Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz.

        Who makes sense with Eichel? Someone who is very fast and can keep up with him like Marchessault or a guy like Stone with the elite vision and precision passing. Chandler Stephenson is always getting lots of breakaways because Stone finds him darting up the middle of the ice.

  16. Pistol Pete

    Ok Daryl got it. Thought you were in NC had forgotten the DE connection. Guess I have to respect your conservative expectations on Eichel’s upside as a two way player. No problem. Looking forward to you being pleasantly surprised…it’s in the mail!

    • Daryl

      I currently do live in NC, I just didn’t grow up here. And yes I am one who was against the trade, not because who he is, but because of the cost, the unknowing, and the loss of other players.

      But now that he is here, Ido hope he can turn into a franchise player. I hope I will be amazed by his overall play.

      And yes I hope I am pleasantly surprised by him.

  17. Pistol Pete

    I was definitely for the trade due to the lack of an elite 1C—it may solve the later rounds playoffs scoring issue and help with the PP. Was a great move imo. One of the liberties of being a fan is to indulge in some wishful upside thinking. For Eichel it’s his two way game which while unproven was plausible to me he can develop quickly based on his speed, hands, size and smarts. It’s hard to imagine him not seizing the opportunity. It may take a few games but I’m willing to bet he gets there. No matter it will be fun to watch. My wife and I are going to LAK 2/18—will be awesome if he plays.

  18. knights fan in minny

    Thay should trade Marchesault, Whitcloud and Hague to make rooms for Eichel.

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