Tonight’s the last time the Vegas Golden Knights play a hockey game that means nothing.
The Golden Knights’ preseason finale takes place at T-Mobile Arena against the San Jose Sharks in a rematch from earlier in the exhibition campaign. San Jose handed Vegas a 5-2 loss on Sept. 21, the Golden Knights’ first of the preseason.
One major difference is Vegas will have about 97 percent of its opening night roster on the ice, rather than throwing all its prospects out as shark bait.
Here’s the low-down when the puck drops.
How will Marc-Andre Fleury respond?
The face of the franchise made his home debut Thursday in the 4-2 loss to Colorado, and struggled mightily. All four goals from the Avalanche were even-strength tallies.
But it’s preseason and that was Fleury’s first full game since last season’s Eastern Conference finals. Fleury will get the start tonight. The goal, obviously, would be to get the win and go into the Oct. 6 opener against the Dallas Stars with some sort of momentum, but if you’re the Golden Knights, it’d be imperative to see Fleury do better than saving only 18 of a possible 22 shots.
That’s only half the battle. The Golden Knights played bad as a whole, but Fleury needs to set the tone and play better on the stat sheet.
Can the Golden Knights score the ever-elusive power-play goal?
Vegas was so good at this the first two preseason games that scoring with the man advantage has become an ancient tale.
The Golden Knights are 0-for-16 on the power play in their last three games, including an 0-for-7 showing Thursday night. Clearly, there couldn’t be anything worst than going zippo on the special teams, right?
Try only nine shots on seven power plays, four of them in the first two periods. That is bad.
The NHL is going to be calling penalties at a premium this year. There will be ample opportunities to put the puck in the net. While continuing to find the open spot in the zone is a good idea, the Golden Knights need to take more shots from the point when they get the man advantage. Gerard Gallant noted that was the case later in the game Thursday. Expect Vegas to take advantage of that.
Who is playing tonight that is on the bubble?
As mentioned, about 97 percent of who the Golden Knights will field tonight will be on the opening night roster. Oct. 3 is the deadline for teams to cut their roster down to the final 23.
The forwards fighting for their right to party are Brendan Leipsic and Tomas Nosek. Both have played solid this exhibition campaign, but could be on the outside looking in considering there might be a chance James Neal actually plays opening night.
On the defensive side, Luca Sbisa needs an impressive showing tonight. He has not been great, especially on the power play. He’s also been at the forefront of some really bad defensive breakdowns when on the ice. He’s playing with five defensemen Vegas is likely keeping on its opening night roster. Sbisa needs a big game.
Forwards: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, William Karlsson, Brendan Leipsic, Oscar Lindberg, Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Nosek, David Perron, Vadim Shipachyov, Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch.
Defensemen: Deryk Engelland, Jason Garrison, Colin Miller, Luca Sbisa, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore.
Goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury and Calvin Pickard
How to watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM
Puck drop: 5 p.m. PT