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Young forward, veteran goalie shine in Knights’ preseason opener

Coach Bruce Cassidy started his first Golden Knights training camp by conducting three long, high-paced practices to give the team a foundation at five-on-five.

They barely got to use it in their preseason opener.

The Knights’ first exhibition game, a 3-1 loss to Colorado at Denver’s Ball Arena, was a choppy affair. They were called for nine penalties. The Avalanche were whistled for five.

The 28 combined penalty minutes meant the Knights didn’t get to show off their new even-strength philosophies for long stretches. Instead, they spent a lot of time on special-team units they practiced with for the first time at morning skate at City National Arena.

It was far from an ideal training exercise. The Knights still have six tuneups left before their regular-season opener Oct. 11 at Los Angeles, including a 7 p.m. meeting with the Kings on Monday at T-Mobile Arena.

The team can still learn things from Sunday as well. Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Welcome back, Cotter

Left wing Paul Cotter knew how important this preseason would be for him entering camp.

He signed a three-year contract extension this summer. He was given a spot in the NHL locker room. He wants to show he’s worth keeping around.

“We get an opportunity here, we’ve got to show what we can do,” Cotter said Friday. “I think all of us young guys did a great job last year in preseason. I think we’ve got to match it again.”

He’s off to a strong start.

Cotter was one of the Knights’ most noticeable players against the Avalanche. He used his speed to drive to the net and attack, something Cassidy praised him for doing in practice Friday.

“That’s what you want out of him,” Cassidy said.

Cotter’s best moment came with 52 seconds left in the first period. He passed the puck to center Nicolas Roy behind the Avalanche net, got open in the left circle and ripped a wrist shot past goaltender Alexander Georgiev for the Knights’ first preseason goal.

He played well enough that he got extra shifts when left wing William Carrier didn’t return for the third period with an upper-body injury.

2. Hutchinson looks steady

Goaltender Michael Hutchinson, despite sporting a blue and white Toronto Maple Leafs mask from last season, looked at home in the Knights’ net Sunday.

The 32-year-old veteran was given the first preseason start after signing a one-year, $750,000 contract July 13. He played half the game, stopping all 13 shots he faced, before being relieved by goaltender Jiri Patera as planned.

Hutchinson said on the KTNV-13 broadcast that he felt comfortable, and he praised his teammates’ defensive effort. His strong performance is encouraging for the Knights’ goaltending depth. He’s the most experienced option at camp, with 137 NHL appearances compared to Adin Hill’s 74 and rookie Logan Thompson’s 20.

Hutchinson is likely starting third on the depth chart with Laurent Brossoit out while recovering from hip surgery. His first outing showed he should be capable of filling in if called upon.

3. Penalty parade

The game never seemed to settle into a rhythm with all the whistles being blown.

Right wing Michael Amadio and center Byron Froese were both given a penalty. Left wing Brett Howden and defensemen Zach Hayes and Brayden Pachal were each called for two.

The Knights at least earned plenty of penalties themselves.

Defenseman Lukas Cormier, coming off back-to-back Quebec Major Junior Hockey League defenseman of the year awards, drew two separate hooks from Colorado forward Martin Kaut. Froese also gave the Knights two power plays, and left wing Jake Leschyshyn earned the one that set up Cotter’s power-play goal on an extended offensive-zone shift.

Contact Ben Gotz at [email protected] Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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