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Knights excited to celebrate huge milestone for their ‘Iron lung’

Updated February 11, 2024 - 2:45 pm

Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez made his NHL debut Oct. 3, 2009.

The three-time Stanley Cup winner became a regular the following season. Martinez, 36, has played in an impressive 798 games in that span.

That makes what Knights teammate Alex Pietrangelo is about to do at 34 years old all the more remarkable. Pietrangelo will play his 1,000th NHL game Monday against the Minnesota Wild at T-Mobile Arena.

He’ll become the 390th player in NHL history to accomplish the feat, as well as the 125th defenseman.

“The guy is an absolute horse,” Martinez said. “Obviously (it takes) talent, dedication, durability, playing the game the right way. I can basically just describe (Pietrangelo). There’s obviously much more than that, but it’s a really incredible accomplishment.”

Pietrangelo’s moment may come against a familiar face.

The Knights (31-15-6) could face former goaltender Marc Andre-Fleury, who was just celebrated by the Wild (23-23-5) for some significant milestones of his own. Fleury was honored in Minnesota on Friday for moving into second place on the NHL’s all-time wins list with 553 and becoming the fourth goaltender to play 1,000 games.

Pietrangelo is about to go through the same pomp and circumstance. His wife hosted a celebration featuring current and former teammates from his illustrious 16-year career. He’s expecting plenty of friends and family to be in attendance Monday.

“It’s not many times you get all of your closest friends and family together. I haven’t had everyone together since our wedding,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s a good opportunity to kind of take a step back. Time goes by fast. You don’t get to this spot without a lot of good people along the way. I love what I do, but I really love the people.”

Teammates have taken the opportunity to rib Pietrangelo about his age.

He was drafted and made his NHL debut in 2008. He’s accomplished so much since then, including Stanley Cup championships with the St. Louis Blues and Knights.

The admiration he has in the locker room is evident.

“He’s a good man, good teammate and I’m pretty proud of him,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “It takes a special person for sure. It’s one of those accomplishments that’s a huge one individually. When your career is over, they usually talk about Stanley Cups and then it goes right to a thousand games if you end up getting that. For me and I’m sure for Alex, it’s pretty cool. He’s a special person.”

Martinez said what makes Pietrangelo’s accomplishment more impressive is his workload each game. Pietrangelo is on the ice in all situations and often has to defend the opponent’s top line.

He still has 594 career points, 47th-most by a defenseman in NHL history.

“We call him ‘Iron lung.’ I think I’ve legitimately heard him say, ‘I’m tired’ maybe once,” Martinez said. “He’s competitive in all areas of the rink. Sometimes I sit there as his partner on the ice and think, ‘How the hell did he win that battle?’ But he does. He’s a competitor. He’s committed to all areas of the ice. He’s obviously gifted offensively and the defensive part of it speaks for itself. I could go on and on.”

Pietrangelo and the rest of the defense corps should get a boost soon as Shea Theodore is back on the ice practicing in a red no-contact jersey. He’s been out of the lineup since Nov. 22 after having surgery on an upper-body injury.

The Knights will be looking to build on a 7-1-1 run Monday that has been bolstered by the return of goaltender Adin Hill.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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