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Knights’ goaltender Laurent Brossoit facing yet another former team in NHL playoffs

LAS VEGAS — Timing is everything, and doubly so for an NHL goaltender.

Laurent Brossoit spent much of this season outside the NHL, but the 30-year-old from Surrey, B.C., is a playoff starter for the first time in his career.

The Vegas Golden Knights’ goaltending carousel — five different starters — stopped at Brossoit because he was healthy and playing well by the end of the regular season.

“It’s been a crazy year that way,” Brossoit said Friday at the Knights’ practice rink in Summerlin.

Brossoit has backstopped the Knights to the second round of playoffs and a one-game lead in their Western Conference semifinal series against the Edmonton Oilers.

“I always knew that I have starting capabilities, and whether that was going to happen this year, whether I would get the opportunity this year, was impossible to predict,” Brossoit said.

“I thought that I would have at least one opportunity. I was pretty confident that I was going to seize it.”

Brossoit and the Knights chase a sixth straight post-season win in Saturday’s Game 2 before the series flips to a city Brossoit knows well.

He spent his major junior career with the Edmonton Oil Kings. They won a Western Hockey League title in 2012 and reached the WHL final the following year.

Brossoit (pronounced brah -SAH) was a Calgary Flames’ draft pick, but broke into the NHL with the Oilers. He played 28 games before joining the Winnipeg Jets for three seasons.

The Knights vanquished the Jets in five games in the first round, so the storyline of Brossoit facing his former teams in the playoffs continues. 

Games 3 and 4 are Monday and Wednesday in Edmonton. 

“Honestly, it’ll probably feel similar to how I felt in Winnipeg, which is nice,” Brossoit said. “It’s almost an advantage for me to have gone through it once. There’s a lot of added emotions and I felt like I did a good job of controlling them, and getting the job done. 

“It’ll be fun to go to Edmonton and do the same thing. There’s a lot of deeper roots. I spent five years there, including juniors, and I got some family there and billet family, so it will be fun.”

After undergoing hip surgery last July, Brossoit spent the bulk of his season with the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights.

The Knights acquired Adin Hill last August and played him in tandem with Logan Thompson this season. 

Vegas also acquired two-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Quick at the deadline.

Lower-body injuries to both Hill and Thompson opened the door for Brossoit to get a run of starts at the end of the season. 

The Knights finished 5-0-1 when Brossoit was in net.

“It came down to Quicky and Laurent,” Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Laurent was just a little bit ahead of him at the end of the year.

“Hill’s worked his way back into the rotation but hasn’t played for a while. Laurent’s done everything we’ve asked him so we’re not going to go away from him until that changes.” 

Brossoit now sees hip surgery and the aftermath as taking a step back to take two steps forward.

“The surgery really helped catapult me forward,” he said. “Now I’m able to kind of work on things and my potential is now being more easily realized.

“Going through surgery, you never know. There’s one side of you that thinks, am I going to be the same? And the other side is thinking “I’m going to be better.’

Brossoit said the Knights brining in Hill gave him a chance to “recalibrate” his game in the minors.

“Luckily, when that happened, when I got my opportunity, my game sharpened up to the level that I was NHL-ready,”he said. “I got small opportunities. I felt like I took advantage and was prepared for those. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I got even more opportunity, going on our way to the playoffs and now into playoffs.”

Brossoit appeared in the back half of one playoff game as an Oiler in 2017 in San Jose.

Edmonton counterpart Stuart Skinner made his playoff debut this year.

A subplot of the Oilers-Knights series is how their goalies with no previous playoff experience will handle the pressure, and also how Brossoit will handle the likes of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.

Draisaitl, who leads the NHL in post-season goals with 11, took a puck in the face during Friday’s practice and required “one or two sutures. He’ll be just fine,” Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft said. 

Edmonton winger Mattias Janmark did not skate after falling backward into the boards in Game 1. He’s said to be day-to-day.

Cassidy pointed out Friday that top goaltenders such as Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, Boston’s Linus Ullmark and Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers didn’t advance past the first round.

“It might be the year. You look at some of the goalies, the guy in Jersey, I’m not sure what his history is and he’s carried them into the second round,” Cassidy said. “Now you’ve got Skinner, you’ve got Brossoit.

“It may be that year where a lesser-known guy is going to carry his team and we hope it is.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2023.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press