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July 23, 2018

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How Golden Knights defensemen fared in 4-1 victory in Colorado


Jack Dempsey / AP

Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault celebrates a goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of a preseason hockey game Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, in Denver.

The Golden Knights looked impressive yet again in their second preseason game, handling the Avalanche in a 4-1 win Tuesday night in Colorado.

Vegas again jumped out to an early lead, scoring three goals in the first eight minutes of action. Brad Hunt rifled a slap shot over Colorado goalie Spencer Martin’s shoulder for the first goal, and Jonathan Marchessault and Oscar Lindberg both scored in their preseason debut.

Goaltenders Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk were solid in net, stopping 28 of the Avalanche’s 29 shots on goal.

Tomas Hyka scored his third goal in two preseason games in the third period to seal the win for Vegas.

But while it’s nice to be undefeated through two games, results mean little in the preseason. It’s all about whittling the roster down to the final 23 spots, and the Golden Knights have a lot of work to do, especially on the defensive end.

General Manager George McPhee currently has 11 defensemen and must cut that number to eight before the regular season starts Oct. 6.

Here is a look at how each of the defensemen did Tuesday night, in order from best to worst, as they try to make the final cut.

Jason Garrison

2 assists and 4 shots on goal in 23:16 of ice time

The 32-year-old veteran is a virtual lock to make the Golden Knights opening-night roster, so he isn’t playing for a job like many are. Still, it was good to see Garrison play well in his preseason debut.

Garrison assisted on Marchessault and Lindberg’s goals and moved the puck well from the point all night. He was also one of the main penalty killers with 6:07 spent on the ice short handed.

Colin Miller

3 shots on goal and two blocks in 17:54 of ice time

Despite not registering any points, it was obvious Miller was the best offensive defenseman on the ice for Vegas. Like Garrison, Miller is in no danger of being cut.

Miller commanded the puck on the power play for the Golden Knights and did a great job of deciding when to pass and when to shoot. He wasn’t afraid to let shots rip from the point but was unable to find the back of the net.

Brad Hunt

1 goal and 1 shot on goal in 18:08 of ice time

Hunt is one of the defenders truly playing for a job every time he steps on the ice this preseason, and it has shown in his play. Hunt racked up three assists in the Golden Knights' opening preseason win over Vancouver, and scored the game’s first goal Tuesday night in Colorado.

Prior to the preseason, Hunt was one of the defensemen expected to be cut but he is certainly making the decision hard on McPhee.

Jon Merrill

1 assist, 1 shot on goal and 6 blocks in 21:04 of ice time

Another defenseman playing for a job, Merrill sacrificed his body like you wouldn’t expect in a preseason game. Merrill was constantly getting low as Colorado forwards wound up for shots. He blocked six shots, and altered a few others in front of the net.

Merrill is making his case for being on the opening night roster, more on heart than skill.

Deryk Engelland

1 assist, 1 shot on goal and 1 block in 19:35 of ice time

The veteran defender of the group was exactly what you’d expect him to be — reliable. Engelland didn’t make any spectacular plays or stand out in the game, but he was safe with the puck and was rarely out of position.

That’s why Gerard Gallant trusts him when the team is down a man. Engelland led the team with 6:35 of shorthanded ice time.

Luca Sbisa

1 assist, 2 shots on goal and 4 penalty minutes in 20:15 of ice time

Without a doubt, Sbisa had the worst night of the six defenders that played for Vegas. The 27-year-old committed two slashing penalties and was caught out of position multiple times.

Sbisa did show physicality with three hits, the most on the team, but he often seemed too focused on looking for the big hit, and it cost him in positioning.

Sbisa is in danger of getting cut from the opening day roster, but there’s still time for him to make his case in the five remaining preseason games.

Next the Golden Knights head to San Jose to face the Sharks at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

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