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Connor McDavid could miss game against Golden Knights, Tomas Hertl | Golden Knights

Tomas Hertl’s Golden Knights debut was a mixed bag and that’s OK.

It would have been unrealistic to expect an impeccable performance in Hertl’s first game with his new team when he was also returning from left knee surgery.

There was rust. There were also signs of the player the Knights were hoping to get in their blockbuster March 8 trade with the San Jose Sharks.

“First game after a long time, I wasn’t bad,” Hertl said. “But I know I will be better.”

Hertl, 30, recorded an assist and one shot on goal in 20:20 during the Knights’ 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.

He started at second-line left wing with center Chandler Stephenson and right wing Michael Amadio.

Hertl was also the Knights’ primary faceoff option on the power play. He went 6-for-9 in the circle, including three straight wins with goaltender Logan Thompson on the bench and his team pushing for a game-tying goal.

Hertl has won 56.3 percent of his faceoffs this season, his best mark since he was a rookie in 2013-14.

“This year is kind of my best faceoff year so far,” Hertl said. “I like to be there but I know I will be a little better (at) helping my teammates, (holding) the puck, (making) better plays.”

One of Hertl’s faceoff wins led to his first Knights point. He won a power-play draw in the left circle and the puck made it to defenseman Noah Hanifin at the blue line. Hanifin’s shot beat Canucks goaltender Arturs Silovs 9:33 into the second period to give the Knights a 3-2 lead.

Hertl helped make the goal happen by screening Silovs. His net-front presence should give the Knights a boost on the man advantage.

“It’s normally my spot,” Hertl said. “Win the faceoff, go to the screen, use my big body.”

Hertl still has work to do on the penalty kill.

He was on the ice for both of Vancouver’s power-play goals in the first period. He hasn’t spent much time practicing with team yet and neither goal was his fault. He may not see a lot of short-handed ice time moving forward, either.

Coach Bruce Cassidy said Hertl was on the penalty kill because center Brett Howden took two of the Knights’ three penalties. Center Nicolas Roy, one of the team’s primary short-handed options, is also out with an undisclosed injury.

Cassidy said Hertl came as advertised overall.

“I thought he played well for us,” Cassidy said. “He’s in great shape. He got through it.”

The next step for Hertl is to build chemistry with his new teammates. The Canucks had a 4-3 edge in scoring chances when his line was on the ice at five-on-five.

The Knights still have five games remaining in the regular season for him to work out the kinks. The team plays its final road game Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers, who may be without superstar center Connor McDavid due to a lower-body injury.

Hertl said he’s already in playoff mode. The Knights’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot remains at three points.

Hertl hasn’t been in the postseason since 2019. He’s looking forward to being back, but he doesn’t have a lot of time to get ready.

“We’re in playoff mode, so we have to be harder,” Hertl said. “They won it last year, so they know what it takes. We have to turn on the switch and be ready every game. It doesn’t matter who we play.”

Contact Danny Webster at [email protected]. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

Up next

Who: Golden Knights at Oilers

When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Rogers Place, Edmonton, Alberta


Radio: KKGK (1340 AM, 98.9 FM)

Odds: Oilers -135, total N/A

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