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3 things to watch as the Golden Knights take on the Coyotes

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Can “Real Deal” James Neal continue to make other teams bend the knee?

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Dallas Stars
Vegas Golden Knights goalies Marc-Andre Fleury (29) and left wing James Neal (18)
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights are the only franchise in the history of the NHL to be undefeated. Not bad!

The Golden Knights, after defeating the Dallas Stars 2-1 Friday night, will try and build off of that momentum Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.

The Coyotes come in off what should have been a victory against the injury-plagued Anaheim Ducks, as they held a 4-3 lead into the 50th minute against the Ducks. However, Ondrej Kase and Andrew Cogliano came in to break that lead.

The Coyotes still scored four goals, though. Each was from a different player, as Anthony Duclair, Max Domi, Clayton Keller and Christian Fischer each got off to a hot start. Two of those players are rookies. Domi and Duclair are parts of the Coyotes’ young core. Both are looking for bounce-back seasons after a rough go of it last year.

In net, the Golden Knights can expect to face Antti Raanta, who after backup gigs with the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, is finally getting his crack at being a starting goaltender. He didn’t play the season opener against the Ducks, as he was sidelined with an injury, though it was a minor one.

With that, what should Golden Knights fans be asking themselves prior to the second game of the season?

Can James Neal keep it up?

Neal, who got off the injured list just in time for the game against the Stars, tallied two goals; the first in Golden Knights history and the second securing the first franchise victory. Not a bad night of work.

Last season, Neal scored 48 points, including 23 goals. The season before, he scored 31 goals and 58 points in more games with more minutes. It’s safe to say that Neal still has the potential to close in on the 60-point range, as he’ll see an upward tick in minutes this season. And if he stays healthy, he will be one of the most important Knights offensively.

The Golden Knights didn’t get anything else in terms of production against the Stars, so Neal might need to continue his work. Any form of points would be in the Golden Knights’ favor. An assist could potentially be magic in the right situation.

Neal’s set the bar for himself high in his Vegas debut. It will be interesting to see if he can meet that bar as the season progresses.

Who will be the second Golden Knight to score?

Realistically, the Golden Knights will need to get points from somebody not named Neal. So who’s it gonna be? With Vadim Shipachyov still stuck in the AHL with Alex Tuch (who collected a hat trick) and Shea Theodore (three points) for the time being, it might need to be another of the Golden Knights’ top six forwards.

Against the Stars, Brendan Leipsic was the closest to scoring without actually doing so and Cody Eakin, David Perron and Reilly Smith all played above 20 minutes. It would not be surprising to see one of them add to the scoreboard.

A potential dark horse is Tomas Nosek, who had three shots on goal in just eight minutes of work. If he’s able to keep driving the puck to the net, eventually it will pay off.

Will the power play produce?

Oh, and lest I forget, the Golden Knights went 0-for-7 on the power play. They’re very good at drawing penalties, but once they’re given the man advantage, so far they’ve yet to cash in.

Which brings up two questions — how long will this last, and who will be the Knight to eventually break the unfortunate streak? Two questions might be answered in one instant, as the second Knight to score might do so during the power play.

It will be interesting to see how the Knights address this special teams problem. It’s not a matter of shooting the puck. Nine of the Knights’ 30 shots on goal came during the power play. Finding the right goaltender screen will be crucial and we could start to see more forwards being tested throughout the Coyotes game. Nevertheless, the problem shouldn’t persist past two games, and if it does, it starts to become a concern.