El Segundo, Calif. - The bus. It's an integral part of any hockey life. Childhood peewee tournaments morph into long winter nights on the Iron Lung skidding from Brandon to Moose Jaw. If one is lucky enough to be involved in pro hockey - there's probably a story or two to be told about running from Rochester to Syracuse. In the NHL, the bus is mostly reserved for short jaunts from an airport to a hotel.
Monday saw a Vegas Golden Knights contingent of executives, scouts, coaches and prospects board a pair of buses to make the four-and-a-half-hour cruise from Summerlin to the Los Angeles suburb of El Segundo for a pair of rookie games to be played Tuesday and Wednesday.
One bus with GM George McPhee and assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon plus the entire contingent of rookies as well as the Chicago Wolves coaching staff and the Golden Knights medical and equipment staff pulled out of City National Arena a little after 11 a.m. A second bus led by Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant and his staff plus the team's amateur scouting group.
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For an organization which has been plotting and scheming for over a year - the opportunity to finally play a game is welcome. Hockey can be a grind but McPhee has assembled an organization which works hard but does it with a collective smile on its face.
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The crew was in high spirits as the buses were packed, loaded and hit the highway.
The gear: Expect the Golden Knights to wear the team's road white jerseys in the matches against the Kings.
The bench: Chicago Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson will run the bench in L.A. He'll be joined by his assistants Chris Dennis and Bob Nardella. Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant and his staff will watch from above ice level.
The lines: Nothing is set in stone and it's still unclear whether the Golden Knights will go with 12 forwards and six defensemen or an alignment of 11 and 7. Here's what things looked like at practice on Monday.
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Tyler Wong-Reid Duke-Alex Tuch
Alex Barre-Broulet-Cody Glass-Tomas Hyka
Patrick Bajkov-Nick Suzuki-Keegan Kolesar
Jayden Halbgewachs-Ben Jones-Lucas Elvenes
Nic Hague-Jake Bischoff
Nikolas Brouillard0Dylan Coghlan
Keoni Texeira-Will Warm/Dmitry Osipov
*Jake Leschyshyn remains in a red non-contact jersey and won't play in the rookie games.
In the net
Goalies Dylan Ferguson, Jiri Patera and Logan Thompson made the trip. Look for Thompson to start on Tuesday and for Patera to play the second half of the game. On Wednesday, Ferguson will start and Patera will again get the latter chunk of the game.
Rocky by rote: Thompson was asked on Monday morning what he was looking from the prospects when they get into game action on Tuesday.
"Well, simplicity. First of all you've got to go out and enjoy yourself," said Thompson. "We've had great practices all week. I think our system's work has looked really good. We've got a lot of smart players on our team. They've been playing with the same guys, particularly our forward units, which is good. When you keep the play simple and allow your skill to come to the forefront, good things will happen. Obviously, we want to have aggressiveness; that's something that Vegas and Gerard Gallant instill in their systems. I'm no different."
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Thompson said he wanted every player to be involved and to have a chance to show their best qualities.
"Everybody is going to get an opportunity to play. We're just going to basically be rolling our lines," he said. "We do have special teams, so there is some sort of structure and organization and guys who kind of are looked at that are going to play in those situations moving forward, or get opportunities to. We want to see what they look like in this environment. So everyone is going to get an opportunity to play a lot. We're not going to be shortening the bench, but we do want to win obviously. I'm normally that type of guys anyway when I coach. It will be good for myself and my staff. We've never worked together. So just on those things, ironing out kinks and then just…. It's funny when you're coaching, you've got to get used to a fast game. It will be nice to get back there for ourselves, personally as well."