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Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens

Who are these guys?

And what have they done with the early-season Montreal Canadiens?

In wins over the Rangers on Saturday and Ottawa Monday night, the Canadiens scored 13 goals – equalling their total through the first eight games of 2017-’18.

Despite falling behind 1-0 on Tom Pyatt’s goal 21 seconds into the game, the Canadiens rallied to chase Craig Anderson and rout the home team.

How bad were the Senators?

Erik Karlsson finished the game minus-6. And the perennial Norris Trophy candidate had a grand total of ZERO shots on Al Montoya.

While the home-ice Senators were sucking, the Canadiens got balanced excellence from all four forward lines.

Thirteen Canadiens – including Montoya – made the scoresheet.

Charles Hudon, finally cracking his NHL nut, and the indefatigable Artturi Lehkonen each scored twice.

Alex Galchenyuk played less than 11 minutes … and scored again.

Shea Weber had three assists and finished the game plus-4.

Big Mike McCarron had four hits.

And when the game was still a game, the surprise starter made big stops.

The ludicrous final score notwithstanding, the Canadiens did not play a perfect game. Pucks in the Canadiens’ zone continue to be an adventure, and a better team than Ottawa might have taken greater advantage of the jitters we saw from the Canadiens’ D core.

The rest of the road trip – Minnesota Thursday night, then a Winnipeg-Chicago back-to-back on the weekend – presents greater challenges than the Senators were able to muster in their own barn.

On L’Antichambre, Gaston Therrien said the Canadiens continue to give attacking opponents too many good looks. This will have to be tightened up as the season progresses, and some might argue that the current D corps is substandard.

There were encouraging signs. Victor Mete bounced back with a solid game after a couple of tough outings. Jeff Petry had four hits and continued to bounce back from a subpar start to his season.

I’m not sold on the Karl Alzner-Jordie Benn pairing. With about $9 million to spend, general manager Marc Bergevin has to think about shoring up his back end.

Through the wretched start of the Canadiens’ season, it looked like Bergevin had to go shopping for a forward.

The last two games suggest that might not be a problem … especially if Galchenyuk continues to play his way off the fourth line.

Two Ws in a row, peeps.

Pick out your spots for the parade.

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Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers

It was a tough Saturday night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise for Panthers fan Charles Sternfield — the Detroit Red Wings beat the Panthers 3-2 and an octopus reportedly hit Sternfield in the head.

WSVN Channel 7 reports Sternfield got smacked in the head with the 10-pound sea creature during the national anthem. He told the station, “It was quite heavy. It hurt me, and I was quite shaken up by it. I certainly wasn’t expecting to get hit in the head by a large animal of some type.”

As puckheads know, this kind of thing can happen when Detroit comes to town.

The 65-year-old tradition — it’s reached retirement age, but it’ll never be retired — started in 1952, during the NHL’s six-team days. Four teams made the playoffs, meaning a team had to win two best four-of-seven series to win the Stanley Cup. The dominant Red Wings team not only won both series, did so in a pair of four-game sweeps.

The night of the Cup-clinching eighth playoff win, a pair of Detroit storeowners snuck a octopus into the game and threw it onto the ice, the eight legs symbolizing Detroit’s eight playoff wins.

The tradition faded during the “Detroit Dead Things” era of the 1970s and 1980s. With Detroit’s revival as a perennial powerhouse in the 1990s, the octopus tossing returned during the playoffs. Then, it expanded outside the playoffs as the Red Wings’ resurrection led to Detroit fans being the NHL’s version of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

Similar to the way Pittsburgh natives who left during the city’s economic transition packed stadiums for Steelers road games, Detroit-area natives who left during Motown’s economic turbulence of the last half century made the Red Wings the NHL’s best road draw during the 1990s and 2000s. And, on more than one occasion, one of them indulged in the octopus tradition.

Obviously and unfortunately, Saturday’s thrower didn’t obey proper octopus-throwing form to get proper ice-reaching distance.

WSVN reports the Sunrise police are looking into the incident.

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Dallas Stars

Dallas Stars

DENVER — If adversity builds character and road trips create bonding, the Stars are in the right place.

Dallas lost a 5-3 game at Colorado on Tuesday to start a five-game road trip on the wrong skate.

What’s worse, defenseman Stephen Johns left the game with concussion symptoms and goalie Ben Bishop was pulled in the second period after allowing three goals on 17 shots.

Suddenly, a back-to-back in Edmonton and Calgary on Thursday and Friday looks much more challenging for the 5-4-0 Stars.

“By no means did we put out the right effort to win a hockey game,” said captain Jamie Benn, who had a goal and two assists. “These guys came ready to play and we weren’t sharp enough early on. They deserved to win that game.”

The Stars couldn’t build on an early lead and then just seemed to find chaos. Bishop had been a rock in a recent four-game winning streak, but he seemed to get happy feet.

Still, the veteran goalie said “there was no reason” to pull him and that he was “not happy with the decision.”

Hitchcock said the reality of the situation was he just wanted to wake up his team after a slow start.

“It was time to make a change. We were slow and dozey across the board,” Hitchcock said. “The whole team needed a wakeup call. It has nothing to do with Ben Bishop, it has to do with wake up, let’s get playing. I’ll do the same with any other goaltender.”

Still, both defense and goalie were shaky at times.

When Gabriel Landeskog carried a puck in down the right side, it started the Stars defense scrambling, and Bishop tried to poke check the puck away to safety.

Instead, he sent it right to Matt Neito, and Nieto — who finished with a hat trick) — sort of knocked it past him as he struggled to regain his positioning.

That tied the score at 1-1 after one period, but it was clear Dallas was not playing the way Hitchcock had been preaching.

Two minutes into the second period, Bishop got caught behind the net and couldn’t get back in front quickly enough to stop Nieto from scoring his second of the game.

Then, Julius Honka had a giveaway that led to a frenetic shift in the Stars’ end, and Bishop ended up diving forward to try to stop Landeskog, who patiently carried the puck around Bishop and flipped it into the net.

“We played slow. We were light on the puck, we didn’t play through people,” Hitchcock said.

Kari Lehtonen came on in relief and looked pretty good against an aggressive Colorado attack, stopping the first eight shots he saw.

However, with time running down in the second period, Lehtonen overcommitted to a Tyson Barrie slap shot that went hard off the end boards and rebounded all the way out to Mark Barberio at the left point.

Barberio unleashed a tremendous shot, and Lehtonen couldn’t get back across the crease in time, as the eventual game-winning goal slipped past him with 9.8 seconds left in the second period.

Bishop will likely be back as the starter in goal Thursday against the Oilers, but Johns could miss some time.

The Stars have two defensemen — Jamie Oleksiak and Greg Pateryn — who are ready to come in and Hitchcock could decide to use both, as Honka struggled at times.

But whatever happens, they need to respond to a rough performance, or this road trip could get pretty seriously dangerous pretty fast.

“It’s a learning lesson,” Benn said. “Just because you win four in a row doesn’t mean you’re going to come in here and they’re going to give it to us.”

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If there is a hockey deity, Tommy Wingels must have attended services Saturday before the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over the Coyotes.

Wingels had an apparent penalty-shot goal taken away in the second period when replay officials ruled goaltender Louis Domingue had hit the puck — officially ending the play per NHL rules — as Wingels attempted a backhand-forehand move in front of the net.

But Wingels scored his first Hawks goal later when he sealed the game with an empty-netter. The “hockey gods,” as Wingels and lineman Lance Bouma said, must have been smiling down on Wingels.

“Definitely that was the hockey gods giving him one back,” Bouma said. “Because that was a heck of a move he put on the goalie in the shootout; I think it was a goal for sure.”

But what’s important about both Wingels’ non-goal and his empty-net goal is the circumstances that led to them. On the penalty shot, Wingels and his line had worked the puck in the Coyotes’ zone and he made a strong move to draw a hooking penalty on Max Domi.

As for Wingels’ empty-netter, the fourth line had played so well that it earned Quenneville’s trust to be on the ice late in the game with the Hawks protecting a 3-2 lead — a lead that, by the way, the Hawks had because Bouma had given it to them with his first goal of the season 15 minutes, 36 seconds into the third.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has referred to his fourth line of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden as his “energy line.” On Saturday, they gave Quenneville something a little more tangible than energy. They gave him a pair of important goals.

“There are different ways to impact a game, and as a line we talked about finding a way to impact them on a nightly basis,” Wingels said. “Are we going to score every night? No, I don’t think so. Are we going to get two in a night? Probably very rarely. But we can find a way to win battles, finish checks and be a force out there, create some energy. It did feel good to get a couple goals and get rewarded.”

The Hawks signed Wingels and Bouma to add veteran depth and a physical presence on the bottom lines, something they felt was missing in last season’s playoffs.

At times, Tanner Kero has been at center for Wingels on that line, but the group has looked its best with Wingels at center. That has been a surprising development, considering the Hawks had Wingels penciled in as a winger before the season.

Bouma, meanwhile, has helped the Hawks gain possession in the offensive zone during five-on-five play despite having only 48 percent of his faceoffs begin in the offensive zone. That means he has helped flip the ice and get the puck into the Hawks zone. The Hawks have had more five-on-five shot attempts than opponents (69 to 68) when Bouma is on the ice, according to

“They give us a different look,” Quenneville said. “It’s not just skill, it’s some hard work, some physicality, some puck possession, and those are the kind of goals you score in our league — those second opportunities, traffic at the net. I think that’s something moving forward, we can take a page out of what they’re doing.”

As Wingels said, they probably won’t score every night, but they don’t have to score to be effective.

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Evander Kane

Evander Kane

A 1-2-1 road trip, a 1-4-2 season record. The bottom lines for the Buffalo Sabres aren’t pretty at this point.

The team’s uneven jaunt to the West Coast ended late Tuesday night with a 5-4 overtime loss to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, a game that saw the Sabres wipe out a 4-1 deficit in the final 10 minutes of regulation.

It was a mostly disappointing performance that left coach Phil Housley stewing. And it was even more of a surprise, given how the team’s play had gotten appreciably better on the trip’s first three stops, culminating with Sunday’s 3-1 win in Anaheim.

“We had a chance to build on something and I know this is a process but the process was a little broken tonight,” Housley said after the contest in T-Mobile Arena. “The lack of preparation, accountability and urgency to start the game the way we finished was lacking.”

The Sabres took Wednesday off and will return to practice Thursday in HarborCenter. They host Vancouver Friday in KeyBank Center, with no real idea which version of their team will show up.

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A 1-2-1 road trip, a 1-4-2 season record. The bottom lines for the Buffalo Sabres aren’t pretty at this point.

The team’s uneven jaunt to the West Coast ended late Tuesday night with a 5-4 overtime loss to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, a game that saw the Sabres wipe out a 4-1 deficit in the final 10 minutes of regulation.

It was a mostly disappointing performance that left coach Phil Housley stewing. And it was even more of a surprise, given how the team’s play had gotten appreciably better on the trip’s first three stops, culminating with Sunday’s 3-1 win in Anaheim.

“We had a chance to build on something and I know this is a process but the process was a little broken tonight,” Housley said after the contest in T-Mobile Arena. “The lack of preparation, accountability and urgency to start the game the way we finished was lacking.”

The Sabres took Wednesday off and will return to practice Thursday in HarborCenter. They host Vancouver Friday in KeyBank Center, with no real idea which version of their team will show up.


It’s the conundrum of the early portions of the Sabres’ season. They skated well and had 45 shots on goal in their season-opening shootout loss to Montreal. Then they got pounded by the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, giving up six goals in back-to-back games.

Out West, some elements of the Sabres’ game fell apart from time to time. Defensemen struggled. The penalty kill went 0 for 3 in Los Angeles, including the game-winning goal that came with two minutes left. But General Manager Jason Botterill liked some of the perseverance he saw as well.

“Our compete level and response to getting on the road was very good,” Botterill told The News prior to Tuesday’s game. “We had opportunities in San Jose and LA to win games but didn’t get the results. Our play was going in a positive direction even though it was a difficult loss on Saturday in LA.

“The fact that Phil and the players were able to rebound and stay focused for the game on Sunday showed some mental toughness in the group and we were certainly happy to get that win.”

The Sabres found more of that toughness in Vegas, getting two of their three power-play goals to spark the comeback and finally tying the game on Evander Kane’s goal with 8.9 seconds left in regulation.

“We can’t take periods off and shifts off,” Kane said afterward. “We just played the way we need to play. Unfortunately it took until the third period to get in the right mindset as a group.

“Put pucks on net, to forecheck with five, to get our ‘D’ to get aggressive. We basically played in the zone the entire period, when we were moving our feet and not being slow like we were in the second.”

The Sabres outshot Vegas, 17-6, in the third period. Kane finished with a three-point night to push his season total to 10, which entered Wednesday two off the league-leading total of 12 shared by Tampa Bay teammates Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.

“Phil has spent a lot of time trying to develop relationships with Evander and some of the core players and that’s been paying off,” Botterill said. “From day one of training camp, Evander has been great. You’re seeing what he’s capable of in all aspects of the game. He’s been doing everything the coaching staff has asked him.”

Well, maybe not everything. Kane had a run of penalties in Los Angeles and Anaheim that included his offensive zone trip with 2:04 left that led to the Kings’ game-winning goal four seconds later.

The Sabres’ solid victory over the Ducks made them the second-last team in the league to get a win this year and Botterill said he felt the team needed to see some rewards with its play.

“You’re excited for Phil and the players,” he said. “Phil has talked to them about things that need to improve and you want them to be rewarded for their response. Frankly, it was a relief to people within the organization. The fact that they’re listening to Phil is really good. There’s a buy-in but you have to get the results.”

Botterill is still in observation mode with his team, even as it lingers in the bottom three clubs of the NHL’s overall standing. Zach Bogosian has yet to play in a game this season and his injury has hampered the defense. Jacob Josefson and Zemgus Girgensons were lost in the last two games on the road for undetermined periods, leading to the recall of Justin Bailey, who scored the first goal in Anaheim.

Botterill has taken a conservative approach with the Sabres’ roster, keeping Bailey in Rochester to start the season along with fellow prospects like Nick Baptiste and Brendan Guhle. None of them showed much at training camp, other than the need for more AHL seasoning, but it could have been tempting to simply keep them in the NHL over the likes of Josefson, Seth Griffith or Matt Tennyson.

“You’re not just hoping they play in the National Hockey League. You’re hoping they play a bigger role,” Botterill said. “To me, there’s such a focus on making a team opening night. We put too much of an emphasis on that in this sport right now. You look back at the end of the year and I want to see your total contribution to Buffalo over the season.

“I give a guy like Justin Bailey credit. He went down and gave our team a spark the first night there with two goals. The challenge is to maintain that intensity and level of play.”

The same can be said for the entire team.

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Erik Karlsson

OTTAWA — Erik Karlsson will make his season debut for the Ottawa Senators against the Vancouver Canucks at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN5, SNV, NHL.TV).

Karlsson missed the first five games recovering from June 14 surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot.

“It’s going to be good,” the 27-year-old defenseman said Monday. “I had the appropriate amount of time to get ready to play again. It’s exciting. I’m going to be a little bit rusty probably, but it’s better to get back into things as early as possible. Hopefully we’ll get better as we move on.”

Senators coach Guy Boucher said the benefits of Karlsson’s return will be immediate.

“I think he’s the best player in the world, so it basically has an impact on everything,” Boucher said. “Your breakouts, your transition, your [offensive] zone, your power play, your defensive play. I mean, it’s your leader. He is who he is. He’s such a presence. It’s not just a hockey player, it’s everything around it too. And it’s time.”

The Senators captain said his recovery and any urge to rush back has been eased by their 3-0-2 start. Ottawa has won three straight games after losing its first two in a shootout. The Senators and Los Angeles Kings (4-0-1) are the only teams in the NHL without a loss in regulation.

“It’s been easier for me to watch and be able to take my time and not get too antsy,” Karlsson said. “They’ve done a great job. I’m not coming in to do anything different. We’re going to keep doing the same things.”

Boucher said the timing is right for Karlsson’s return.

“Nothing is easy, but I think he comes back in a state of mind where he doesn’t have to come in and be the hero,” Boucher said. “I think it’s good for Erik to know that, so he doesn’t have all that pressure. Imagine if we had lost every game and he’d be coming in right now? I’m not sure that would be a good situation either.”

The Senators used 11 forwards and seven defensemen in their past two games, and that remains an option against the Canucks. Boucher said Karlsson could skate with different partners and no target has been set for how much he will play.

“We’re going to try to be smart here,” Boucher said. “We don’t need him to play 35 minutes. It’s going to be more about him, what he can take.”

Karlsson, who also sustained hairline fractures in his left heel during a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 28, said in September, “They took half of my ankle bone out” during the surgery.

When asked if his foot would be 100 percent, Karlsson said, “No, I don’t think it will be. But again, I don’t think I’ve been 100 percent since I entered this league. I don’t think anyone is. It’s something you’re going to have to get used to if you’re a pro athlete no matter what sport you play. As you get older, you’re never going to feel as good as you did when you were a kid.

“It feels different and it’s going to feel different for a long time probably. It’s something I’m going to have to get used to. Again, I think playing is the best way to adapt to that and getting back to a new normal.”

Karlsson has led the Senators in scoring the past four seasons. He was third among NHL defensemen with 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists) in 77 games last season and led defensemen with 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 19 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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OTTAWA — Defenseman Erik Karlsson will not join the Ottawa Senators on their current road trip in Western Canada but could be in the lineup as early as next week.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner, who had surgery on his left foot to repair torn tendons June 14, will remain in Ottawa to work on his conditioning.

“We are hopeful that he will play at some point in time next week,” general manager Pierre Dorion said Wednesday.

The Senators play the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday (9 p.m. ET, SNF, RDS2, TSN5, NHL.TV) and are at the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. They return home to play the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

“It’s all about conditioning and he has to get used to a different sensation in his foot, but there is no setback at all,” Dorion said. “We talked before we left (for the road trip) that the best thing to get him ready is to have him skate with (player development coach) Shean Donovan on a daily basis.

“With Erik, I know he’s putting in a lot of hard work on the ice and in the gym to come and help this team sooner than later. It’s just conditioning. We all know when Erik steps into the lineup he is not going to play seven minutes. He will play his usual 25 minutes to 30 minutes. I think when you have to play that many minutes, you have to be in shape. Even though Erik is special and in great shape, the more we can get him in that great shape the best it will be for everyone.”

Dorion said there is a chance defenseman Johnny Oduya, who sustained a lower-body injury against the Washington Capitals on Thursday and remained in Ottawa, could join the team in Calgary and be in the lineup in Edmonton.

Oduya, 36, signed a one-year contract worth $1 million with bonuses that could add up to another $1.25 million July 24.

Senators coach Guy Boucher dressed seven defensemen in a 3-2 shootout win against the Canucks on Tuesday including rookies Christian Jaros, who made his NHL debut, and Thomas Chabot, who played his second game in the League.

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Mike Smith made 43 saves and the Calgary Flames ended a 25-game skid at Honda Center with a 2-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

Calgary got goals from Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund. It hadn’t won at Anaheim since Jan. 19, 2004.

The game was scoreless until late in the second period, when Kevin Bieksa’s cross-checking minor gave the Flames their fourth power play. Calgary was unsuccessful until Johnny Gaudreau fired a cross-ice pass from above the far-side circle to Kris Versteeg on the far post. Versteeg’s initial shot was blocked by Cam Fowler, but the puck rebounded to Monahan, who beats a leaning John Gibson.

The Ducks carried the play in the third. Midway through the period, Ryan Getzlaf lost a battle along the boards. The puck got through to Michael Frolik, who skated it up the ice. Frolik sent a pass through the legs of Brandon Montour to an on-rushing Backlund, who beat Gibson top-shelf.

Smith survived a mad scramble in the final minute to preserve his 34th career shutout and first with Calgary.

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This evening was supposed to be one of celebration in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world where the next raucous party is never more than a stone’s throw away. At 5.30pm local time, the city’s first major sports franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights, will play their first ever NHL game, away to the Dallas Stars. It is an ice hockey match some 26 years in the making and a landmark moment for the sport.

But late last week, everything changed. On Sunday evening, not long after thousands of fans had poured out of the T-Mobile Arena and onto the Strip after watching their new team narrowly lose their final game of the pre-season, a gunman named Stephen Paddock opened fire on an open-air concert from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel. People initially mistook the loud, crackling noise for fireworks. 59 people died. 527 more were injured.

And, suddenly, the Golden Knights’ hastily-assembled squad of players, many of whom were eating dinner at the nearby Cosmopolitan as the tragedy unfolded, found themselves with a job far bigger than what they had been brought to the city to do. No longer hockey players but something else entirely, they visited the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, United Blood Services, and the Las Vegas Convention Center, bringing some moral support to a city struggling to cope with the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

“Sports are a great thing, it can help take people’s minds off of things,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said during a media day on Wednesday, after stopping off at the city’s blood drive. “As much as the city has embraced us, we’re a part of Las Vegas and want to help through the grieving process.”

His team-mate, Deryk Engelland, was meanwhile still attempting to process the tragic events of Sunday night. “My wife is shaken up and she’s scared to go to the games, or to take the kids to the home opener,” he said. “You see these things happen all over the world and no one ever thinks it’s going to happen in their backyard. For it to happen here, it’s horrific.”

Horror, tragedy, grieving: these were not the circumstances under which Gerard Gallant imagined taking charge of his first regular game with his new team. A softly-spoken Canadian who was driving home after picking up his daughter from McCarran International Airport when the atrocity began to unfold, he told The Independent only a month previously how he expected the Golden Knights to be a force for good within the community.

“Teams are going to love coming here,” he said at the franchise’s headquarters, located away from the hustle and bustle of the Strip at the nearby planned community of Summerlin, Nevada. “We have a brand new arena and it will be cool for other teams to come here and play hockey. It’s exciting, there is a buzz around the place and there’s an amazing atmosphere here at the minute.”

It takes less than 20 minutes to drive from the Strip to Summerlin and yet it feels like a world away. Leafy, affluent and quiet, in stark contrast to the effervescent heart of Sin City, it is here that Gallant sat and discussed his plans for the season to ahead, having found some time out of preparing his new side for their very first season in the NHL.

That in itself is something of an accomplishment, as Gallant has had much to get ready before the NHL’s first expansion team since 2000 take to the ice in Dallas, Texas. An entire squad of new players must learn how to play alongside one another in a brand new system. Opposition teams must be scouted and prepared for. Not to mention the raft of off-the-rink, administrative duties.

Which rather begs the question: just why did he take the job?

Gallant smiled when the question was put to him. “The opportunity came up for me not long after I got fired from the Florida Panthers, last November,” he explained. And when I was let go in Florida, it hurt. It’s never fun to lose your job. But when the opportunities come up every coach is the same – you don’t want to just sit out and do nothing. I was on the list of the guys that the Golden Knights wanted to interview for the job and after I left my first interview I told my wife that I had a very good feeling about things. And after a long process, I was offered the position.”

The 54-year-old, who has prior experience working with a franchise team having previously coached the Columbus Blue Jackets, admitted to being drawn in by the prospect of leading the Golden Knights through a historic campaign, at a historic time for the city.

“There were a combination of factors that appealed to me about moving here,” added Gallant. “Of course I knew the people but then there was also the experience of being the first ever team in Las Vegas. I’d been here five or six times before, with my buddies on golf trips and on vacation with my wife, and I really enjoyed those experiences. And now I have the chance to help build something very special here.”