The Vegas Golden Knights have had many firsts so far this season: first win, first home game, first power-play goal, etc.
Tonight will be Vadim Shipachyov's first NHL game.
Shipachyov's return to the lineup is the main storyline entering this afternoon's matchup against the Boston Bruins (2-2). However, the status of Marc-Andre Fleury after he took a knee to the head Friday night against Detroit is front-and-center as well.
The Bruins enter today’s game coming off an impressive 6-2 road win Saturday in Arizona. Boston has gotten off to a slow start this season but has been without several regulars, including four-time Selke winner Patrice Bergeron and power forward David Backes.
Brad Marchand leads the team in points with five, while David Krejci and rookie Jake DeBrusk each have four. However, Marchand and David Pastrnak are the team’s biggest offensive threats after recording 85 and 70 points last season, respectively. It was backup goalie Anton Khudobin who earned the win last night, but Vegas likely will face Vezina-winning netminder Tuukka Rask this afternoon. Rask is 1-2 this season with a 3.75 goals-against average and .870 save percentage.
Here are four questions facing the Golden Knights as Vegas hosts the Boston Bruins.
How will Shipachyov fare?
At long last, he has arrived.
Have no fear, Ship is here.
We can’t say for sure about the fear part, but Ship is, indeed, here.
After being sent down to the AHL prior to the start of the regular season for paperwork/cap reasons, Shipachyov was recalled as forward Erik Haula was placed on injured reserve after sustaining a lower-body injury Friday night.
It’s unclear where Shipachyov will play in the lineup after skating on a line with Brendan Leipsic and Tomas Nosek at yesterday’s practice. There’s still a possibility he will move up to the top line, where he played with Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault in preseason.
Shipachyov can’t be expected to carry the team on his back, and he doesn’t need to; James Neal has done a fine job leading the team in offense with six goals this season. But his presence should bring a new level of energy and excitement to the lineup and to the building.
Even though center Oscar Lindberg has played pretty well on the team’s top line, Shipachyov was brought to Vegas to be this team’s first-line center. Regardless of where Shipachyov slots in today, this afternoon’s game will bring him one step closer to making that a reality.
Who will Vegas start in goal?
Marc-Andre Fleury’s post-game comments regarding the collision, originally tweeted by Las Vegas Sun reporter Jesse Granger, indicated there might be cause for concern as the 32-year-old said he wasn’t sure if he was injured on the play. Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha inadvertently kneed Fleury in the head on Friday.
Though Gallant said it was a maintenance day, Fleury’s status for today’s game is still up in the air.
Gerard Gallant reports that today was a maintenance day for Marc-Andre Fleury.— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) October 14, 2017
Until the second period of Friday’s game, Fleury had been lights-out and was arguably the team’s most valuable player. Even after surrendering six goals the other night, Fleury is 3-1 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .925 save percentage, and he holds a 12-7-4 career record against Boston.
If Fleury is unable to go, it could be Malcolm Subban making his Knights debut. Subban, claimed on waivers by the Golden Knights Oct. 3, was originally drafted 24th overall by Boston in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He has two games of NHL experience under his belt, both losses, and he sports a career 5.82 goals-against average and .727 save percentage.
Subban will be given a chance at some point this season, and it's possible he could elevate his play against his former team.
Will James Neal keep his goal-scoring streak alive?
Neal has been the driving force behind the Golden Knights’ offense. His six goals make up 50 percent of the team’s total offensive output.
He has been, as they say, the real deal.
Neal has been as consistent as he has been reliable, scoring at least one goal in every game this season. This includes two tallies against Dallas in the season opener and two against Arizona in the home opener, as well as a second-period strike Friday night.
However, Neal has just five goals and 12 points in 17 career regular season games against the Bruins. It will be interesting to see if he can prolong his recent surge.
Can Vegas up its game coming off a third-period collapse?
In the third period on Friday, the Golden Knights looked like an expansion team. The Knights blew a 3-2 lead and allowed the Wings to score four unanswered goals. Vegas was sloppy and, at times, careless with the puck. They committed at least eight turnovers in the final frame. The Knights as a whole failed to put forth a 60-minute effort, which ultimately cost them the hockey game.
It was a period and a game the Knights would like to have back. Fortunately, the nature of an 82-game season allows the team to start anew this afternoon. But everyone will need to do his part to get back to the patient, team-driven style of play that was so successful in the first three games of the season.
It’s important that the Knights remain focused and disciplined, as Boston carries the NHL’s 11th-ranked power play (25 percent) after going 2-for-3 on the man advantage last night. On the other hand, the Bruins’ penalty kill has been a team weakness. Operating at just 75 percent, good for 27th in the league, the Bruins’ penalty kill could allow the Knights to overcome the team’s power-play ineptitude (5.9 percent).
How to watch
TV: AT&T Sportsnet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM
Puck drop: 4 p.m. PT