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James Neal and the Vegas Golden Knights both experienced
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CALGARY Jake Muzzin Jersey , Alberta — James Neal and the Vegas Golden Knights both experienced the euphoria of a remarkable run to the Stanley Cup final during the team’s expansion season.Neither Neal nor his former team has had that magic continue on to 2018-19.After signing a five-year free agent deal over the summer, Neal has struggled in his new home and has just three goals and a measly assist in 20 games with the Calgary Flames, who host Vegas on Monday.Article continues below ...While his season-opening slump may have gone unnoticed somewhat in Vegas, it hasn’t in Calgary, where fans and media are never shy with their critiques of player performances.“We’re in a hockey market here,” Neal told reporters on Sunday. “The fans are asking, the media is asking: ‘What’s going on’ It takes time, too, to be comfortable in a new place. It takes time to get used to new linemates. It won’t always be like last year, going and scoring five goals in the first three games. It just doesn’t happen like that every year.”Neal’s former teammates are playing the second night of a back-to-back after getting a 6-3 win at Edmonton.“I’m not trying to make excuses or anything like that, but sometimes when you change teams again Jeff Carter Jersey , you have to get used to everything again and it’s not easy. It’s obviously been a lot tougher than expected. But I’ll be fine. I’ll be better.”Neal enters Monday’s contest one point shy of reaching 500 for his NHL career. He’s scored 20 goals in each of the past seven seasons, including 25 in Vegas last year, but is falling off the pace if he is do reach that mark in Calgary,The Flames prepared for the Golden Knights with a morning practice at Scotiabank Saddledome on Sunday. Head coach Bill Peters spent some time post-practice downplaying what went on the night before when the Flames scored four unanswered goals — three in the third period — to beat the struggling Oilers.“We went to work a little bit here today, had a quick little skate, we’ll have a quick pre-game (skate) tomorrow and be ready to play a real good Vegas team,” he told nhl.com. “You’ve just got to stay with it. It’s a long year. It’s 82 games – you’ve got to keep the lows and the highs, kinda try and balance them off and be steady.“And we will be.”The Golden Knights have had a cooler start to their second season in business. They won 13 of their first 20 games in 2017-18? but just eight over the first 20 this season and are seeking consecutive wins for the second time this season after scoring three times in a span of 2:12 in the third period Sunday.Cody Eakin, Max Pacioretty and Johnathan Marchessault scored as Vegas scored a season-high six goals and erased a one-goal deficit.Marchessault scored twice and added an assist to lead the offence and his 10 goals lead the Knights, two ahead of Eakin.However, it’s Eakin’s commitment to playing in the defensive zone that’s drawing praise in Vegas these days.“Cody plays a good two-way game for us and he plays his role really well http://www.officialkings.com/authentic-adidas-jonathan-quick-jersey ,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant told the team’s official website.Added Eakin: “Any way you can help, whether it’s offense or defense it’s big for any team.”Vegas welcomed back defensemen Nate Schmidt from a 20-game suspension for violating the league’s substance program on Sunday. He played 19:38.“It is great to be back and, in the rotation, again,” Schmidt told reporters after Sunday’s morning skate.“Just stepping on the ice for the first time; you’re doing what you love and that just makes you excited for it. It’s that feeling to get back out there and getting to play again.” Anyone who has played with Marc-Andre Fleury can tell he’s dialed in by watching his mannerisms.Last year, he rubbed the shaft of his stick after making a save with it on Alex Ovechkin. This year, he continued a career-long tradition of rubbing the post as a sign of appreciation for keeping a puck out.”That’s when you know he’s in the zone,” Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta said.Fleury is in one of the best zones of his career in the playoffs with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, who have followed up a magical inaugural season with a trip to the Western Conference final. The goaltending of Fleury is the biggest reason they’ve gotten this far and is a continuation of his remarkable playoff reputation rehabilitation.After taking the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and winning it all in 2009, Fleury lost four of the next five series he played and each postseason posted a save percentage under .900. He has since gotten his groove back, helping the Penguins win the Cup again a year ago Nate Thompson Jersey , and now leads the NHL playoffs with a 1.53 goals-against average, .951 save percentage and four shutouts.”I don’t think it was anything physically that he changed,” former Penguins teammate and current Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. ”It was all confidence-driven. He’s always been a guy who’s really competitive and really loose at the same time. I think it was just confidence. I think he needed a fresh start. Maybe he just needed a clean slate, and you perform better when you’re more appreciated.”It’s impossible not to appreciate the impact ”Flower” has made in the desert as the face of a new franchise as he went 29-13-4 with a 2.24 GAA and .927 save percentage for Pacific Division-winning Vegas. The fresh start might have rejuvenated Fleury more than a decade into his career, but his bounce-back in becoming a great playoff goalie again is six years in the making.The low point came in 2012. Fleury allowed 26 goals over six games to Philadelphia in a first-round exit. The next playoffs, backup Tomas Vokoun started more games, and it was fair to wonder if Fleury had lost it.”You learn from losing,” Fleury said Wednesday. ”You learn from tough times and pressure and stuff like that. It made me a better goalie from it.”Now-Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen was there for some of the struggles but didn’t level them all on Fleury. By 2014, he noticed a different goalie.”There was a period of time there where maybe (it was) not entirely his fault, a few things went wrong and it snowballed on him and he had a tough go there, I think Authentic Oscar Fantenberg Jersey , mentally for a couple springs,” Niskanen said. ”But by the time of my last year there he was really good again.”The scars of another second-round exit led to more blame for Fleury, who was scapegoated for a team with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin not doing more after the Cup in 2009.”Sometimes it’s the way your team plays in front of you,” said Penguins winger Carl Hagelin, who beat Fleury with the Rangers in playoff series in 2014 and 2015. ”Sometimes, like any other player, you might have a bad series or a bad playoffs and I think for a goalie if you have that, people are going to be all over you.”
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