Looking to build on the organization’s first ever preseason victory Sunday, the Vegas Golden Knights roll into Colorado to face the Avalanche on Tuesday..
Before we discuss the Golden Knights, let's take a look at the Avalanche.
If the dictionary had a picture beside the word "abysmal", it would be that of the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche. The team finished with just 48 points and with a shocking goal differential of minus-111. For the sake of comparison, the next worst team in goal differential, the Arizona Coyotes, were a minus-67.
Nathan McKinnon managed to crack the 50-point plateau with 53. He was the only one to put up 50 or more for the team. Even the usually reliable Matt Duchene failed to get close. He managed just 41 points and has since been linked to just about every team as a possible trade looms on the horizon.
They then lost the draft lottery to the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, and Dallas Stars as all three teams jumped over them to take the top three picks.
General manager Joe Sakic continues to grasp at straws in an attempt to right the ship. In the off-season they signed former first-overall pick Nail Yakupov (3 goals and 6 assists in 40 games last season) out of free agency, as well as ex-Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (.915 save percentage last season).
They can’t possibly as bad as last season ... Can they?
Here are our three things to watch on the Golden Knights in this one.
The beginning of the Vadim Shipachyov era
It’s time for us all to finally see the man many of us have been hyping for months. Vadim Shipachyov will make his (sort of) NHL debut tonight against the Avalanche and it will be many people’s first chance to watch the Russian center live. I mean, sure, he played in the World Championships last year but that was long before he was a Golden Knight so we can all be forgiven for perhaps not watching him as closely as we could have.
How much of the skill that propelled him to a 26-goal, 76-point season in the KHL in 2016-17 will translate to the NHL? This won’t be a definitive look, of course, but it will be our first. And that’s exciting.
What are Gerard Gallant’s Line Combinations?
The Avalanche got a rare bit of good news when the lineups were released. Newly minted sensation Tyler Wong and top draft pick Cody Glass will not be in the lineup. Unfortunately for Colorado, pretty much everyone else is.
As far as we can tell, there are between six and nine forwards playing tonight that could see the roster come October. Names like Shipachyov, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Erik Haula, Jonathan Marchessault, David Perron, and Teemu Pulkkinen are relative locks. Oscar Lindberg, Alex Tuch, and Tomas Hyka could also see themselves break camp with the Golden Knights. Tuch and Lindberg seem the most likely, but the 24-year-old Hyka could still get into the discussion.
Because of this, tonight marks the first chance we’ll have to really look at how possible line combinations shake out. Who plays with Shipachyov? Do Marchessault and Smith play on the same line? Is Marchessault a center or a wing? If a wing, who is their center? So many questions, tonight we finally move toward getting some answers.
Fringe veteran defensemen vs. Fringe young defensemen - Part 2
This is an on-going storyline, but tonight the participants change and it’s noteworthy.
Deryk Engelland and Jason Garrison will see their first game action of the spring tonight, as do Jon Merrill and Luca Sbisa. All four are attempting to solidify their hold over a spot in the Golden Knights top-six defenders and, like last game with Stoner and Reinhart, this is their first chance to impress Gallant in game action.
Reinhart failed to impress on Sunday and Stoner, outside of a fight, was pretty much invisible (though a plus-3) outside of his fight later in the game, so the door is very much open for anyone to walk through.
Is that Brad Hunt’s music we heeeeeere!?!
After notching three assists, it isn’t completely impossible that obvious AHL signing Brad Hunt finds some way to move himself up the depth chart. Sure, he probably won’t crack the lineup, but impress the coach and he could be the first to get a phone call if someone goes down.
The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. PT and is set to be seen on NHL Network (this time with no blackout issues, we hope).