NHL playoff races: Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner to have season-ending surgery

·7 min read

The Vegas Golden Knights had denied an ESPN report last week that goaltender Robin Lehner would have season-ending surgery and he was the backup Sunday night.

Monday, though, the team announced that Lehner would have shoulder surgery and be out for the team's remaining games and the playoffs, if Vegas makes it.

"Robin has done his best to battle through this injury he sustained February 9, and we were hopeful that rest and rehab would allow him to complete the season," the team said in a statement. "He initially rehabbed and was able to return to play March 1. At times rest and rehab were effective, but ultimately Robin, in consultation with team medical staff, determined that this is the best course of action."

Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner will have season-ending surgery.
Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner will have season-ending surgery.

That will leave the Golden Knights' playoff bid in the hands of rookie goalie Logan Thompson, who has played well this season. The team recalled Jiri Patera.

Coach Peter DeBoer gave Thompson the start Sunday "based on performance," and the decision looked good. But the San Jose Sharks scored twice late in the third period and won in a shootout, complicating Vegas' path to the playoffs.

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"He shouldn't take anything hard," DeBoer said of Thompson. "I think he was really good tonight. I'm not sure any of those goals he could do a lot with."

DeBoer believes Thompson will bounce back.

"He's 25. He's won the best goaltender in the American (Hockey) League," DeBoer said. "He's been in situations like this where you lose and you have to bounce back the next night. I'm not worried about him. We've got a good room. I don't think there's one guy in that room that's pinning this on him."

The Golden Knights made it to the Stanley Cup Final their first season in 2017-18 and reached the playoffs every year since. They have a long shot to make it by clinching third in the Pacific Division (six points back), but their more likely path is a wild-card berth (three points back).

The NHL regular season, for all intents and purposes, ends on April 29, with a Seattle Kraken-Winnipeg Jets makeup game on May 1 having no impact in the playoff race.

Here is some of what is still up in the air:

Who gets the West's final spots?

The Golden Knights' point for their overtime loss kept the Los Angeles Kings (96 points and third in the Pacific) from clinching a playoff spot. The Kings still have a chance to finish second in the division and get home-ice advantage against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Nashville Predators also missed a chance to clinch, but picked up a point in an overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild to move into sole possession of the first wild-card spot.

The Golden Knights (90 points) and Dallas Stars (93) are battling for a spot, and the Vancouver Canucks (87) are still mathematically alive. If the Stars beat the Golden Knights in regulation on Tuesday night in Dallas, they'll make the playoffs.

Who will win the Metropolitan Division title?

The Carolina Hurricanes lead the New York Rangers by four points after Sunday's win against the New York Islanders. Carolina has the edge in regulation wins and has two games left. But the Hurricanes, already without goalie Frederik Andersen, lost Antti Raanta to a lower-body injury on Sunday. Sportsnet reported that Raanta merely had a cramping issue and is expected to dress for the next game. The Rangers, who have three games left, must win Tuesday's home game vs. the Hurricanes to have a chance.

Who gets home-ice advantage between the Wild and Blues?

That will be important because both teams are playing extremely well and could use an edge in their first-round series. Both won again Sunday to remain tied in points, with Minnesota's Kevin Fiala extending his point streak to 10 games and St. Louis' Robert Thomas extending his point streak to 17 games. The Wild wrap up the season with a three-game homestand. The Blues, who lead in regulation wins, finish against Colorado and Vegas.

Who wins first overall?

The Colorado Avalanche have lost four in a row after their nine-game winning streak ended last week. The Florida Panthers' 13-game winning streak ended Sunday, but they have a four-point lead and should wrap up the Presidents' Trophy soon.

Who avoids a first-round matchup against Florida?

The Panthers have wrapped up the Eastern Conference title and will face the second wild-card team. The Lightning took a big step toward making sure it won't be them by beating the Panthers on Sunday. The Lightning have 106 points, the Bruins have 103, the Penguins 101 and the Capitals 100.

The Capitals lost Alex Ovechkin to an upper-body injury Sunday when he crashed into the boards. He's day-to-day. The Penguins and Bruins, meanwhile, got key players back Saturday. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin scored twice in his return from a four-game suspension and had an assist on Sunday. Boston's David Pastrnak had a goal and assist after an eight-game injury absence and Hampus Lindholm played more than 24 minutes after missing the previous seven games. Both were rested on Sunday.

The Lightning, Bruins and Capitals have three games left and the Penguins have two. The Bruins have the most regulation wins and the Capitals have the fewest regulation-overtime wins, the second tiebreaker.

Who gets last overall?

The last-place team has an 18.5% to win the May 10 draft lottery and take Kingston (Ontario) center Shane Wright first overall. The slumping Coyotes' point from an overtime loss to the Blues leaves them and the slumping Canadiens tied at 51 points. The Coyotes have three games left and the Canadiens have two. Montreal has fewer regulation wins.

Who will win MVP?

This will be tight. Edmonton's Connor McDavid won last year when he dominated the shortened season and teammate Leon Draisaitl won in 2020 by winning the scoring title while McDavid was hurt. Both are having strong seasons and could split the vote. Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau has a shot to win the scoring title and the Presidents' Trophy. Toronto's Auston Matthews, the NHL's goal leader at 58, is back from a minor injury and will get first-place votes if he hits 60 goals. Johnny Gaudreau has topped 100 points and helped Calgary go from missing the playoffs to Pacific Division champion. There even has been talk of support for Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, who leads the league in goals-saved above expected, according to moneypuck.com, and fits the Hart Trophy's definition of most valuable to his team.

Who will win the Norris Trophy?

It's between Nashville's Roman Josi and Colorado's Cale Makar, who have set franchise records for points in a season by a defenseman. Josi leads in points (91-85) and Makar leads in goals (27-21), including six game-winners. The two will will face each other on Thursday. Josi won the award in 2020.

Who will win the Vezina Trophy?

Shesterkin seems to have the goaltending award wrapped up.

Who will win the Calder Trophy?

Toronto's Michael Bunting, 26, has the rookie points lead, but he left Saturday's game with an injury. Anaheim's Trevor Zegras has shown plenty of creativity and is four points back with two games left. Detroit's Moritz Seider, who just turned 21, is displaying plenty of maturity for a young defenseman. That could send votes his way.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL standings, schedule lookahead: Vegas' Robin Lehner out for season