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3 things to watch for as the Golden Knights face the Sabres

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One team is exceeding expectations in Vegas, the other off to a disappointing start in Buffalo.

Boston Bruins v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights (4-1-0) enter play tonight sitting second in the Pacific Division behind the Los Angeles Kings. Their opponent, the Buffalo Sabres (1-4-1), sit last in the Atlantic Division. Early season standings are fun.

The Sabres are coming off their first victory of the season, a 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, which marked Phil Housley's first victory as an NHL head coach.

Buffalo entered the season expecting to make a push for the playoffs on the backs of Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel.

Reinhart was selected No. 2 in the 2014 NHL draft and is coming off a 47-point campaign. Eichel, selected behind Connor McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft, had 57 points in 61 games.

In the off-season they fired general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma, traded Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno along with a 2018 third-round draft pick for winger Jason Pominville and defenseman Marco Scandella, and also signed Benoit Pouliot in free agency.

At least in the early going, returns on their investment have not been good.

While Pominville has been as advertised with his four goals and six points so far, Pouliot has managed just the single goal for one point and Scandella has no points.

Further complicating things, their goaltending tandem of Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson have combined for a 3.33 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage.

Here are three things to watch for your Golden Knights in this one.

What will Vadim Shipachyov do for an encore?

He emphatically announced his arrival to the NHL in style with his second period goal against the Boston Bruins on Sunday. Now, what’s next?

Shipachyov is a highly skilled player and getting him to shoot the puck may be akin to pulling teeth. We have run a statistical breakdown of players who make a similar dollar figure to Vadim as a way to help match expectations with the reality of his contract. We'll continue to learn more about the Russian star the more ice time he gets. That starts tonight.

Malcolm Subban: Round 2

Following his 21-save Golden Knights debut on Sunday, Subban will be the starting goalie as long as Marc-Andre Fleury continues to recovers from his concussion. Maxime Lagace will be his backup.

Temper expectations, but watch Subban closely. His athleticism is off the charts and so should be his confidence. Coaches like to use the term "big in the net" (with some variation). So, watch how Subban looks in the net. Does he come to the edges of his crease or stay deep? Does the puck settle down when it hits him or is he fighting it and giving up big rebounds? His development is huge for the Golden Knights.

How will the team play defensively for their young goalie?

The Golden Knights will need to step up their defensive game if they are going to help their young netminder survive what awaits him facing Buffalo. Thus far they have been about average. They are 14th in shots against per game but 24th in shots against per 60. They sit 19th in Corsi-for percentage, and 19th in High Danger Corsi Against per 60.

None of this is bad, but neither is it particularly good. When they had Fleury in net they could be sure their goalie would, for the most part, bail them out of trouble more often than not. Much like the Golden Knights did Sunday, they will need to lock down defensively and give their goalie a chance in this one.

How to watch

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM

Time: 7 p.m. PT