Prepare accordingly, Vegas Golden Knights fans. It appears the debut of center Vadim Shipachyov is drawing near.
Shipachyov was on the ice for the Golden Knights’ practice at City National Arena on Saturday morning. He was one of 11 Vegas forwards present, as the Golden Knights practiced without Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault. Shipachyov was recalled from the Chicago Wolves, Vegas’ AHL affiliate.
The status of Shipachyov has been a frequent topic of conversation among hockey fans in Las Vegas for weeks. Rumors have ranged from top-line expectations to the 30-year-old trying to break his NHL contract in an effort to return to professional hockey in Russia. And everything in between.
But Vegas appears to have weathered that storm. And as of Saturday, chances look good that Shipachyov will be skating with the Golden Knights when they host the Boston Bruins at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Erik Haula Placed on IR
Following Friday night’s 6-3 home loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Haula was placed on injured reserve. That’s the move that created space on the Vegas roster for Shipachyov. The 26-year-old dropped the gloves in the third period with Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar, in what was his first fight at the NHL level. That scuffle was preceded by an ugly collision in which Tatar collided with Haula.
Tatar hit on Haula pic.twitter.com/lykHf4oGkE
— Kyle M. (@KyleWIIM) October 14, 2017
That dirty play will sideline Haula, who has been one of the Vegas standouts during the first week in franchise history. Against Detroit he logged his first goal of the 2017-18 season, beating Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek in the second period.
The Golden Knights are expected to be without Haula for at least a week. Through four games he is averaging 13:32 of ice time.
Shipachyov Has Traveled Strange Road
Vegas captured headlines this summer when the team inked Shipachyov to a two-year deal with an AAV of $4.5 million. The Montreal Canadiens were rumored to be among other teams interested in adding the two-time KHL champion. When the Golden Knights signed him in May, he was the second player in franchise history. The team’s first player was Reid Duke, acquired in March.
Shipachyov’s training camp performance was met with mixed reviews. Many were critical of his passiveness when handling the puck. His shooting was infrequent, and that criticism followed him into the preseason. He appeared in four Vegas preseason games and was not able to find the back of the net.
As the opening day roster was constructed, Shipachyov was assigned to the Wolves, though in paperwork only. While Vegas general manager George McPhee looked to find a roster spot in Vegas for Shipachyov, the narrative became confusing. McPhee was adamant that Shipachyov’s absence from the Golden Knights was not a performance-based decision, but rather a business one. Depending on who you want to believe, that was not understood or appreciated by Shipachyov and his camp.
Regardless, Shipachyov’s scoring acumen is sorely needed on a Golden Knights squad where goals may be hard to come by. During Saturday’s practice, he skated on a line with Tomas Nosek and Brendan Leipsic. He’s on the short list of important players in the infancy of the Golden Knights franchise. We’ll see where he fits in. The puck drops between the Golden Knights and the Boston Bruins Sunday at 4:00 p.m Pacific time.
Las Vegas local covering Golden Knights hockey since 2016.
Ball State University ’05
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Credentialed NCAA football writer covering the UNLV Rebels