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Lehner leaves road trip, Golden Knights turn to Thompson

Updated April 15, 2022 - 3:36 pm

While growing up in Calgary, Logan Thompson spent “countless” nights at the Saddledome watching the hometown Flames.

His brother and sister were in attendance at Thursday’s game against Calgary and joined by some of Thompson’s longtime friends, as well.

All of which made the 6-1 victory a little more meaningful for the Golden Knights goaltender.

“It’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life,” Thompson said. “Really excited, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Thompson has made plenty of memories this season after getting the call from the minors. Now he’ll have the opportunity to write his name in Knights lore for years to come.

The team announced Friday that goaltender Robin Lehner returned to Las Vegas because of a family health emergency. Jiri Patera was recalled from the American Hockey League to serve as the backup, while Lehner is expected to return as soon as possible.

That leaves Thompson, who opened the season as the organization’s third-string goalie, as the unlikely starter for the playoff push with seven games remaining.

The Knights face second-place Edmonton on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Place to close out their road trip.

“It’s exciting. Every time I get a start, I don’t want to let the team down. I don’t want to let the coaching staff down,” Thompson said. “I’m just going to take it game by game, and luckily things are going my way right now.”

Entering the most important game of the year Thursday, coach Pete DeBoer opted for Thompson over the goalie the Knights committed to in the offseason when they traded the face of the franchise.

Thompson took advantage of the opportunity with 35 saves against division-leading Calgary in a must-win situation.

At the time, the move appeared to be a strong statement about Lehner’s performance in a 5-4 overtime loss to Vancouver on Tuesday when he fought the puck at times but also made some timely saves late in the third period to help the Knights earn a much-needed point.

Now it appears there was more happening behind the scenes that went into the decision.

“We ran with (Lehner) to try and get him back up to speed because he’s missed some time,” DeBoer said Thursday. “(Thompson) came in and did a great job in a tough building. We haven’t had a lot of success in this building. He was real solid for us.”

Thompson’s meteoric rise hasn’t slowed after he earned goaltender of the year honors in the AHL last season. He’s won five straight decisions since March 24 and is 7-2 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in his past nine appearances.

Should Thompson, 25, keep up his hot play, DeBoer will be faced with a tough choice in net if Lehner returns during the regular season.

Lehner has said several times that he appreciates there are “no politics” with the Knights when it comes to playing time and the best goaltender should start. But if Thompson carries the Knights into the postseason and makes a deep run, management must choose whether to stick with Lehner and his $5 million salary cap hit or find a new starter.

Thompson solidified his spot with the organization and signed a three-year contract extension through 2024-25 at the end of January.

“He’s been great since he showed up for us,” winger Jonathan Marchessault said of Thompson. “He’s working hard out there and he’s a great guy, a great teammate. I think we’re pretty fortunate to have three good goaltenders like that. At this time of the year, we’re here to win games, and that’s what he did.”

Forward Jonas Rondbjerg also was reassigned to Henderson of the AHL.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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