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Paul Stastny could return as Vegas Golden Knights visit New York Islanders

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange
Paul Stastny could return as Vegas Golden Knights visit New York Islanders
New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss takes a water break during a timeout against the St. Louis Blues in the first period on November 11, 2017 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK -- On Wednesday night, the New York Islanders might begin to get an extended look at the goaltender they thought could serve as a No. 1 netminder this season.

And the Vegas Golden Knights might finally get re-acquainted with their biggest offseason addition.

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Goalie Robin Lehner could receive a second straight start for the Islanders on Wednesday night, when they host the Golden Knights -- and possibly center Paul Stastny -- at Barclays Center.

The Islanders lost their most recent game Monday, when they fell to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in a shootout at Nassau Coliseum. The Golden Knights last played Sunday, when they beat the visiting Dallas Stars 4-2.

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Lehner, making his first start of the month, recorded 23 saves Monday night for the Islanders (14-11-4). It was just the 12th start this year for Lehner, who was expected to be the top goalie for New York when it signed him to a one-year deal in July.

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Lehner posted a shutout against the San Jose Sharks in his Islanders debut Oct. 8 and allowed two goals or fewer in four of his first seven starts. But he suffered a back injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 30 and has made only five starts since, a span in which he's gone 0-3-2.

Thomas Greiss, meanwhile, has gone 8-4-1 since Nov. 1 to solidify himself as the Islanders' number one goalie.

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Greiss has never been a season-long No. 1 goalie, though, so the Islanders could give Lehner a second straight start to see if he has begun to recover the form that made him a solid netminder earlier this decade for the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres.

The Golden Knights (17-14-1) know what they have in Stastny, whom they signed to a three-year deal in July with the hopes he could get Vegas over the top after a stunning expansion season in which it advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.

But Stastny, who collected 53 points last season for the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets, suffered a lower-body injury against the Sabres Oct. 8 and hasn't played since. He accompanied the Golden Knights to New York and skated at practice Tuesday.

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Vegas head coach Gerald Gallant said Tuesday he hoped Stastny can return to game action during the four-game road trip that begins Wednesday -- the Golden Knights will also visit the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and the Columbus Blue Jackets -- but didn't say if he could play against the Islanders.

"He's been out for a long time, but he's a very important player," Gallant told reporters following practice. "We signed him in the summertime and we think he's a real elite two-way player."

Marc-Andre Fleury, the Golden Knights No. 1 goalie, is likely to get the start in net Wednesday. Fleury is 23-11-5 in 42 regular-season games against the Islanders.

Lehner lost his only start against the Golden Knights on March 10, when he made 33 saves as the Sabres fell 2-1 in the shootout. Greiss has never faced Vegas.

The Islanders are the only team the Golden Knights haven't beat. New York earned a 6-3 win at Barclays Center on Oct. 30, 2017 and recorded a 2-1 in Las Vegas on Jan. 25.

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