Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, the team announced on Monday.
Vegas, battling with the Dallas Stars for the second and final wild-card berth in the Western Conference, has three games remaining, and will play out the schedule with 25-year-old Logan Thompson in net. The Golden Knights will play the Stars on Tuesday night.
Lehner, 30, informed the Golden Knights last Thursday night he was going to have the shoulder surgery, sources told ESPN’s Emily Kaplan on Monday. On Saturday, the team doctor confirmed that option was the best course of action after evaluating Lehner, sources said. However, the Golden Knights asked Lehner to delay his surgery because they said they needed him to serve as the backup on Sunday, citing salary-cap implications.
“Robin has done his best to battle through this injury he sustained February 9, and we were hopeful that rest and rehab would allow him to complete the season,” the team said in a statement. “He initially rehabbed and was able to return to play March 1. At times, rest and rehab were effective, but ultimately Robin, in consultation with team medical staff, determined that this is the best course of action.”
Lehner sat on the bench and served as backup Sunday night as the Golden Knights lost to the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in a shootout, which seriously damaged their playoff hopes.
It indeed has been a long season for Lehner, who also suffered a knee injury March 8, as well as the team overall. Hampered by injuries at forward and defense, as well, the Golden Knights — among the early favorites to win the Stanley Cup — have struggled down the stretch, particularly at home this month. In addition to the damaging loss to San Jose, a team that is not headed to the postseason, Vegas also lost to the New Jersey Devils, among the eliminated teams from the Eastern Conference, last week at T-Mobile Arena.
“It’s a tough way to lose a point after putting in the work,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said Sunday night after the loss to the Sharks. “But we have no time to sit around and worry about it. You hope that it doesn’t cost us a playoff spot. And if it does, that’s a tough one to sleep on all summer.”
Lehner suffered his knee injury in a road loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. He left the team’s road trip to receive more testing after the initial injury and missed Vegas’ next several games. He returned on April 3 and posted a 2-2-1 record with a 3.21 goals-against average and .889 save percentage.
Last week, DeBoer denied that Lehner was done for the season when asked about the report after a Friday practice.
“Not to my knowledge,” he said. “It was a maintenance day today. I expect him at practice tomorrow. I expect him dressed on Sunday.”
Last Wednesday, Lehner was pulled after the first period against the Washington Capitals after allowing one goal on 13 shots. The Golden Knights went on to defeat Washington 4-3 in overtime.
Thompson is 9-5-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average this season, but was in net Sunday for the meltdown vs. the Sharks. Vegas led that game 4-2 with three minutes remaining. Jiri Patera has been recalled from the American Hockey League to be Thompson’s backup.
Vegas, in its fifth season since joining the NHL, has never missed the postseason, and reached the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural year.