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The Golden Knights Must Reduce Fleury’s Workload

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TSN’s Travis Yost wrote an article this week that suggests more and more NHL teams are using a two goaltender system. Franchises are searching for steady backups to win some games while giving their starters a chance to recharge.

Behaviourally, we’ve seen teams start to shift some of the minutes onto their second goaltender. Last season, the average NHL team used their No. 1 goalie in about 60 percent of the total minutes: down almost 10 percent from where it was a decade or so ago. -Travis Yost, TSN

Last season goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury started 74% of regular-season games for the Golden Knights. He played 3635 minutes, also 74%. Fleury registered the fourth-most minutes in the league and was tied for the fifth-most starts.

Minutes

Carey Price – 3880
Devan Dubnyk – 3855
Connor Hellebuyck – 3704
Marc-Andre Fleury – 3635
Jacob Markstrom – 3599

Starts

Devan Dubnyk – 66
Carey Price – 64
Connor Hellebuyck – 62
Martin Jones – 62
Marc-Andre Fleury – 61
Sergei Bobrovsky – 61
Frederik Anderson – 60
Jacob Markstrom – 60

Yost found that goaltenders ten years ago were starting 8% more games on average. However, in 2019 Fleury was still in the crease more than the average goaltender in 2009. As most clubs were trending towards more rest for their starters, the Golden Knights relied heavily on their trusty ole backstop.

The position has changed. Teams are still on the hunt for superstar goaltenders, but teams are also becoming increasingly conscious about workload, burnout rates and the heightened risk of injuries for their primary puck stoppers. Add that to an increased understanding that goaltenders struggle when playing in back-to-back situations – the NHL schedule still sees a dozen or more of these per team each year – and you have a real incentive for strategic rest.-Yost, TSN

The question going forward is how will Vegas handle Fleury’s workload in 2019-20?

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Two Golden Knights Make SI’s 2019-2020 Fantasy Bust List

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Again with the lists. This time, fantasy experts took their shot at predicting players that will drop in production and be this season’s busts. A few Golden Knights were unfortunately selected in Sports Illustrated’s newest list of fantasy flunkies.

One of the first players SI cautions fantasy GM’s to steer clear from is Vegas’ left-handed sniper.

Max Pacioretty (Golden Knights) ESPN: 67 | NHL: 68 | CBS: 81
Let’s get this out of the way: Max Pacioretty went berserk in the playoffs, scoring five goals in seven games, and he dominated when playing with Mark Stone and Paul Stastny. That as much as anything is fueling the hope that Pacioretty will become a 30-goal scorer again. Turning 31 in November, Pacioretty hasn’t surpassed 22 goals and has missed 34 games in the last two seasons. He’s no longer a threat to record lofty shot totals, making his floor lower than other players in his range.-Sportsnet

The next Golden Knight to skip in your fantasy draft according to SI, could be considered VGK’s most reliable player.

Marc-Andre Fleury (Golden Knights) ESPN: 68 | NHL: 24 | CBS: 22

How many more good years can Vegas get out of Marc-Andre Fleury, who is turning 35 this year, while also expecting him to carry the lionshare of the workload? While the departure of defenseman Colin Miller isn’t a death blow to Vegas’s defense, it also doesn’t do Flower any favors. His career has been revitalized since joining the Golden Knights (64 wins, 2.40 goals against average, .919 save percentage) and his potential “bust” label is based more on his longevity than his ability. Avoid reaching for Fleury in early rounds when his value should be much safer as a second-tier goalie.-Sportsnet

Albeit a soft critique from Sports Illustrated, but beyond his age, I doubt Golden Knights fans agree with their reasoning. Las Vegas loved watching Colin Miller rip shots on net, but let’s be honest, his departure won’t hurt Fleury. It’s fair to be concerned with the 34-year-old goalie’s workload but I’m assuming the coaching staff has a preservation plan in place for 2019-2020.

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Why Did Toronto Trade Garret Sparks to Vegas?

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While there’s no question who’s the number one goaltender in Las Vegas, talking heads in Eastern Canada are busy speculating if goalie Garret Sparks can someday be the numero uno on an NHL team.

“It’s very possible. Based on what I saw last year, I don’t think he has that potential. This is a guy who’s had great success in the minor league. He came into a very pressured situation in Toronto… he was thrown into a role, maybe a role he wasn’t ready for.”-Carlo Colaiacovo, Former NHL’er and analyst on TSN 690 Montreal

Sparks was acquired earlier this month via trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, in exchange for a fourth round pick and David Clarkson’s dead money.

On surface it looked like a minor move to create some financial wiggle room for each team. What was lost in the deal was the expectations Vegas may or may not have for Sparks. We know George McPhee doesn’t like leaving a swap meet without a bargain, maybe the backup from Toronto was more than an impulse buy.

“With Dubas being a Sparks guy, because he had him in the minors. He groomed him. You never thought it would be a possibility but clearly he was a guy that they were willing to part with.”-Colaiacovo

For the past two seasons, when healthy Malcolm Subban has been Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup. Subban is 25-years-old and has never started more than 20 games in a season. Sparks is a little older and has less experience but let’s face it, he was brought in to compete for Fleury’s relief role. Like he did last year in Toronto. After a hot start to the season the former Maple Leaf created buzz around the fan base.

Here’s an excerpt from an article written last week by SportsNet’s Mike Johnston:

Sparks made 20 appearances this past season. During his first 10 outings the Elmhurst, Ill., native went an impressive 6-2-1 despite posting a less-than-stellar .905 save percentage.

In early January, though, he took a puck off his head at practice that resulted in a concussion and his season went downhill from there.

“I felt I was finally starting to build some momentum and get my chance,” Sparks said. “I just felt like I got cut down, and it’s hard to regrow after you get your progress chopped off like that.”

His final 10 appearances were rough as he went 2-7-0 with a .899 save percentage and eventually wore out his welcome.-Sportsnet.com

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Golden Knights Not Shaping Team Around Fleury’s “Window”

The Golden Knights are built to win.

A franchise that was supposed to take years to truly become a contender was able to achieve that status overnight and with the roster heading into 2019-20, they are looking to take that final step.

Vegas has seven key players signed through the next four seasons. They have another five under contract for each of the next three. Sure, they are pushed up against the cap now, but even with the impending moves, this team is ready to be a favorite in the Western Conference.

There is however one specific piece of the puzzle though that is so crucial to the team’s success, but also might be the most volatile of all.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

That’s Marc-Andre Fleury.

He plays the most important position on the ice and he’s played it at an incredibly high level since coming to Vegas. Because of it, the Golden Knights have made back-to-back playoff appearances and raised a pair of banners in the rafters.

But Fleury is 34-years-old and will turn 35 early this season. If there’s one thing we know about sports, it’s that Father Time is undefeated. Some guys maintain their peak level of play longer than others, but every player in the history of sports eventually reaches a point where they just can’t do it anymore.

That day will come for Fleury, and the major question is what happens to the Golden Knights when it does.

Appearing on the Press Box on ESPN Radio Las Vegas, GM Kelly McCrimmon was posed a question about the team’s window in relation to their 34-year-old superstar goalie. His answer was telling.

Certainly, Marc-Andre is tremendously important to our team’s success and we are very fortunate to have a player of his ability and add to that his leadership and his character makes him a big big part of our team. We’ve never ever talked about shaping the rest of our team based on any player’s particular window. We’ll always be a team that’s trying to build around a core of good players and that’s our focus now and we need Marc-Andre to be a big part of that. -McCrimmon

The idea is to have a good enough core to be able to withstand any one piece’s demise. Sounds noble, but is it realistic when talking about Fleury?

We can only hope.

Otherwise, they better find another sucker to give away a Hall of Famer.

Vegas Golden Knights Top NHL In Jersey Sales

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The Golden Knights weren’t able to repeat as Western Conference Champions (#NotAMajor), but they were able to successfully defend another title in year 2018-19.

For the second straight year, the Golden Knights sold the most jerseys in the NHL according to CMO Brian Killingsworth.

In Year 1, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the expansion team would top the list as literally every fan had to buy a new jersey. But to keep it up in Year 2 is quite the achievement.

The Golden Knights also topped the NHL in sales per cap (measured by fans/attendance) at in-arena team stores. And, Killingsworth confirmed during the 2018 playoff run people from over 110 countries bought Golden Knights apparel.

Marc-Andre Fleury finished atop the list of Golden Knights players for most jerseys sold and ranked 3rd behind Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

The top five Golden Knights jerseys sold were:

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury
  2. William Karlsson
  3. Alex Tuch
  4. Max Pacioretty
  5. Deryk Engelland

Killingsworth noted that Mark Stone made a strong push towards the top five in the few months following the trade deadline but didn’t quite crack the top five.

All in all, another year of dominance in the apparel market for the Golden Knights. It will be challenging to repeat as champs again in Years 3 and 4, and even tougher in Year 5 with the Seattle expansion franchise coming in, but if any city can do it, it’s Vegas.

(Stick tap to Alan Snel from LVSportsBiz. Check out his hour-long interview with VGK CMO Brian Killingsworth.)

It’s All About The Goaltending

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

Before the opening-round playoff series between the Golden Knights and the San Jose Sharks had begun, I pointed out that Vegas would win and it would do so because of superior goaltending.

Hey, I’m no Scotty Bowman, but you didn’t need to be to know that Marc-Andre Fleury was better than Martin Jones and/or Aaron Dell.

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And as this series heads to SAP Center Thursday for what could be a series-ending Game 5 following an impressive 5-0 victory at T-Mobile Arena Tuesday night, it’s a fact Fleury has been a big part of why the Knights hold a 3-1 series lead.

He’s getting better with each period of each game. He wasn’t great in the 5-2 loss to the Sharks in Game 1. And after letting in three late first-period goals in Game 2, Fleury has been virtually unbeatable.

I’m not blaming him for the loss or the trio of goals allowed in Game 2. But he’s doing what you want your goalie to do — stop the easy ones, make a few spectacular saves, be the first line of defense on the penalty kill and keep your team in the game.

He’s tracking the puck with laser precision. He’s always a step ahead of the Sharks in anticipating where the play is going to be. His positioning is spot on. And he’s moving well in his crease and post to post.

In other words, Fleury is being Fleury. He stopped all 28 shots he faced in recording his 15th career playoff shutout, tying Chris Osgood for fourth place on the NHL’s career list.

I have felt good all playoffs. They are a good team, it’s not over obviously. It was a big game tonight and a big win for us. One game at a time. -Fleury

The win, Fleury’s 78th in the playoffs, moved him past Mike Vernon into seventh place on the all-time list for goaltender wins. Next is Ken Dryden, who had 80 postseason victories.  Patrick Roy is the career leader in playoff wins with 151.

It is really cool. I have been very fortunate to play on a lot of good teams and again this year. It is very humbling to be amongst these guys who I grew up watching. -Fleury

His play Tuesday did not go unnoticed by his coach, his teammates and his opponent.

He played awesome the first two periods. We weren’t happy with our game. Obviously, we got out to the 1-0 lead in the first shift fortunately for us so that was big, but we didn’t play our type of game for two periods. I thought and we played a lot better in the third. Fleury was huge, when we needed him, he was huge. -Gerard Gallant

This from Shea Theodore:

I think when you watch him out there and he makes those saves, you see how confident he is. Even when he is playing the puck, he is confident with it and he always makes the right decisions. –Theodore

And San Jose coach Peter DeBoer tipped his hat to Fleury.

I thought we created a lot of chances on the other end, but you have to give Fleury credit. He frustrated us tonight and allowed them to be in the position they were in the third. -DeBoer

The Knights have done an awful lot of things well in this series. The line of Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone have dominated and the Sharks still haven’t found an answer for them. They’re doing the little things well, like winning faceoffs. They’re outhitting the Sharks.

What Vegas has not done well is avoiding penalties. They’re taking way too many, and it’s going to catch up with the Knights. Maybe not in this series, but perhaps in the next round. Fleury has been tremendous in standing up to the barrages of shots the Sharks have fired at him when they have the man advantage and that’s what you hope your goalie will do. Tuesday, San Jose went 0-4 on the power play and they are just 3 for 20 in the series (15%).

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Time For Flower To Bloom

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

It was a simple transaction announcement Tuesday afternoon — Maxime Lagace was being returned to the AHL Chicago Wolves.

But the news behind the news was huge. It meant Marc-Andre Fleury was returning to active duty for the Golden Knights. And the timing couldn’t have been better.

Or more critical.

We last saw Fleury in goal back on March 15 in a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars in Texas. Since then, he had been given time off, reportedly having sustained a lower-body injury. His wife Veronique was also giving birth to the family’s third child, this time, a boy. And it didn’t hurt for Fleury to reboot things mentally as well as heal up physically.

No doubt the time off had to have done him a lot of good. And the reality was the Golden Knights weren’t catching Calgary and winning the Pacific Division. So the decision to shut Fleury down was a wise one.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

He has had a wonderful season, arguably one of his best of his NHL career. In 59 games, he has a 35-19-5 record, eight shutouts, a 2.46 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He probably won’t win the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top goalie, but he had played himself into the conversation over the first half of the year.

Don’t forget, he’s no kid anymore. The guy is 34 years old, but given the high standard of his play, Fleury remains the most critical piece of the Knights’ puzzle going forward into the postseason next week.

He will be expected to put the team on his back and take them as far as he can. That was the case last year as Fleury was brilliant through the first three rounds of the playoffs and he played well in the Stanley Cup Final too.

He’ll get some playoff preseason work in Thursday against Arizona in the regular-season home finale at T-Mobile Arena and he’ll probably be in net Saturday in the last game of the year in Los Angeles against the Kings. It’ll give him a chance to get his timing back, to reconnect with his defensemen, to help give the Knights some momentum going into the opening round of the playoffs against San Jose and to be back where he is happiest — on the ice.

I don’t know too many players who simply love playing hockey the way Fleury does. It’s almost child-like in his affection for the game. You watch 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds scamper all over the ice and having fun. That’s Fleury, even at age 34.

That kind of love becomes infectious inside the locker room. The players see their goalie having fun and it energizes them. They all tap into the little boy inside each of them.

Yes, this is their job. Yes, they’re paid to win. Yes, there’s tremendous pressure and high expectations on all of them, Fleury included. But when you strip all of that away, it reverts back to why you laced up your skates and grabbed a stick in the first place. There’s something special about riding to the rink, getting on the ice and skating and shooting, or, in Fleury’s case, stopping the puck. Hockey should be fun, even at the NHL level. To Fleury’s credit, he never forgot that.

A word or two about Malcolm Subban if I may.

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Preserving Fleury Down The Stretch Shouldn’t Affect His Postseason Performance

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First there were concerns Marc-Andre Fleury was playing too much, now some are worried he’s been resting for too long. As we patiently wait for Fleury to make his return between the pipes, the question of how he will look when he gets back in there must be asked.

The 34-year-old goaltender has been in net eight times over the last 15, and none of the last six. Last season, Fleury played 16 out of Vegas’ last 20 and was unbelievable in the Golden Knights goal throughout the playoffs.

Over the past four seasons, Fleury has had various percentages of starts down the stretch and all show signs of consistency in the playoffs.

In 2016-17, Fleury played eight of the last 20 games splitting time with Matt Murray. That Penguins team, of course, went on to win the Cup. Fleury started the first 15 games winning two series (CBJ-5 games, WAS- 7 games) but was relieved of his duties after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Pittsburgh went on to win seven of the next 11 games with Murray in net. The light schedule for Fleury didn’t impact his performance for 15 postseason games. He had a .924 save percentage and allowed 2.56 goals per game before getting the hook.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was very confident in both goaltenders.

Both of these guys have helped this team win all year long. They’re both high-quality people and they’re high-quality goaltenders. We never take these decisions lightly. They’re extremely difficult decisions. This is the choice that we made for Game 4. –Mike Sullivan

The season prior, Fleury started 12 out of the Penguins last 20 games. He ended the season with 58 games played but his time would come to an end quickly in the postseason. Fleury dropped the first two games of a first round series and was replaced with Murray for the remainder of their Stanley Cup run. Fleury posted a dismal .875 save percentage in those two games.

In 2014-15, Fleury played 16 of the last 20 regular season games. The Penguins lost went on to lose to the New York Rangers in the first round. Fleury was terrific though. He limited the Rangers to just 2.12 goals per game and put up a .927 save percentage.

 GP in Last 20Playoff RecordPlayoff Sv%Playoff GAA
17-181613-7.9272.24
16-1789-6.9242.56
15-16120-1.8753.03
14-15161-4.9272.12

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Marc-Andre Fleury Respects Those He Passed – And Those He’s Chasing

**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

The Golden Knights had but one representative at Saturday’s NHL All-Star Game in San Jose. And while you may quibble over the Knights having just one player participate, no one can argue about the validity of the player who was selected.

Marc-Andre Fleury belongs in the All-Star Game and this was his fourth appearance in the event.

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More important, Fleury is playing at a very high level. Some would argue his performance to date in 2018-19 ranks among his best since he came into the NHL back in 2003. He is 34 years old. He is feeling great. He leads the NHL with six shutouts. And while the Knights are going to make the playoffs, think of where they might be right now if not for Fleury being able to play the majority of the games?

He has played in 45 of Vegas’ 52 games with a record of 27-14-4. Fleury has a 2.59 goals-against average, a .911 save percentage and the six shutouts.

Yes, there should be some concern come the postseason as to his freshness. Assuming there are no mishaps, he’s looking at playing anywhere from 65 to 70 games in net during this season. But that’s a discussion for down the road.

For now, let’s focus on where Fleury is at and where he is going as it pertains to his overall career.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Today, Fleury has 431 wins in the NHL. That places him ninth on the all-time list for victories as a goaltender. He is six wins from tying Jacques Plante, who has 437. He may also catch Terry Sawchuk, who is No. 7 at 445, later this year.

He has already passed Dominik Hasek, Grant Fuhr, Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito in making his way into the top 10. He is one of three active goaltenders on the Top-10 list — Florida’s Roberto Luongo is fourth with 481 wins and Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers is sixth at 446.

Here is the complete Top-10 list of NHL goaltenders wins:

  1. Martin Brodeur* — 691 wins
  2. Patrick Roy* — 551
  3. Ed Belfour* — 484
  4. Roberto Luongo — 481
  5. Curtis Joseph — 454
  6. Henrik Lundqvist — 446
  7. Terry Sawchuk* — 445
  8. Jacques Plante* — 437
  9. MARC-ANDRE FLEURY — 431
  10. Tony Esposito* — 423

*Denotes member of Hockey Hall of Fame

Fleury has played against some of these guys. Others he had watched play as a kid growing up in Sorel, Quebec. A couple he had to go to YouTube and Wikipedia to check out. But I thought it would be interesting to get his views on some of the goalies he has passed and some he continues to chase on the list.

I did not ask about Luongo and Lundqvist since they are still active and Fleury has talked about them in the past.

They’re all great players, obviously. They have different styles but they all did the same thing — stop the puck. It’s an honor to be on the (top-10) list. -Marc-Andre Fleury

Let’s start at the top and work our way down.

Martin Brodeur played from 1991-2005 with the New Jersey Devils. He has three Stanley Cup rings. In 17 NHL seasons, he had a 2.01 goals-against average.

I could always see him smile through his mask. I thought that was pretty cool. He was a guy who was very unpredictable. He would use the poke check or stack the pads and I always liked that about him. He was always consistent. He played a lot of games year after year and he was always good. Always very solid. He could read the play so well. He didn’t move so much and he was always in the right spot. –Fleury on Brodeur

Patrick Roy played from 1984-2003 with the Montreal Canadiens and later, the Colorado Avalanche. He has four Stanley Cup titles and had 66 shutouts.

I was a big Montreal fan and I was excited when they won in 1986 and ’93. What comes to mind is he was a fierce competitor. He was always battling. He was very confident and he had that butterfly style and that’s how I learned from him. He was tall for that era but it worked out for him. He was so good for him. He definitely influenced me. -Fleury on Roy

Ed Belfour played from 1988 to 2007. He spent eight years with the Chicago Blackhawks and five with the Dallas Stars. His one Stanley Cup title came with Dallas in 1999. He also played for San Jose, Toronto and Florida.

I got to play against him a bit which was pretty cool. I thought he moved around well for a big goalie. He stayed on his feet and was good at reading the play. He wasn’t hurt much and he played until he was 40, I think. -Fleury on Belfour

Curtis Joseph played from 1989-2009. He spent his career with six different NHL teams, beginning in St. Louis, then with Edmonton, and Toronto. He also had a brief stop in Las Vegas playing with the Thunder in 1995-96 where he appeared in 15 games.

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Fleury, Reaves And Schmidt Have Plenty Of Laughs At Their Expense On Spittin’ Chiclets

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It was a good old-fashioned Vegas roast on the latest episode of the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast. Host Rear Admiral and former NHL’ers Ryan Whitney and Paul “BizNasty” Bissonette welcomed Golden Knights star’s Marc-Andre Fleury, Nate Schmidt and Ryan Reaves to an evening at the Friars Club.

Coming right off the faceoff, the trio wasted no time bagging on Vegas’ early struggles, and Nate Schmidt’s suspension.

What happened early in the year? -Bissonette

Couldn’t tell you about the first twenty. -Schmidt

Schmitty let us down, you know. -Fleury

Oh, c’mon! -Schmidt

After Fleury cracked up the room with his playful knock on his teammate, the gang asked Schmidt to get into his little stint in Vienna.

I would practice, I’d get bag skated everyday by this Finnish coach. He would come out with no stick, no gloves and put his hands behind his back and just skate up and down the ice. Fifteen laps was their pregame skate one day. I got back to the bench and looked up in the stands at the GM and go, ‘where am I?’ I’m going to be in the best shape of my life when I go back.” -Schmidt

Bag skating is a term players use when coaches are riding them hard in practice. It might be before or after practice, and it could be a variation of laps, goal line to goal line sprints, or suicide laps. Which are even exhausting to think about.

I was bag skating everyday. Five, six times a week. They take their skating a little more seriously. They skate, and skate, and skate. -Schmidt

Schmidt was asked if he traveled with the Vienna Capitals, his adopted club. The never bashful defenseman, although ashamed, openly admitted to some sweet star treatment in Europe.

I went on the road with them one game. The only problem was, this is terrible, the GM and I flew to this place and the rest of team bussed it. It was a nine hour bus ride from Zurich… I was rested. -Schmidt

The Golden Knights defenseman added that training in Vienna was…

Once, in a lifetime experience -Schmidt

Hopefully. -Bissonette

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