With the memory of their overtime loss on Tuesday still fresh in their minds the Vegas Golden Knights look to regroup as they welcome the Colorado Avalanche to T-Mobile Arena tonight.
This game marks the second time this preseason the Golden Knights and Avalanche play. The first, a 4-1 Golden Knight victory in Colorado, featured goals from Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Hyka, Oscar Lindberg, and Brad Hunt, as well as a strong combined performance from goaltenders Oscar Dansk and Maxime Legace.
For the Avalanche the preseason has been much kinder than their 2016-17 campaign that saw them finish with 48 points, 21 points fewer than the next worst team. They are presently 3-2-0 and, though the games don't count for anything, it has to wash some of the bad taste from their collective mouths.
Nathan MacKinnon leads the Avalanche in scoring with four goals and in points with six. College free agent signing Alexander Kerfoot has had a strong camp with four points including two goals, and former first-overall pick Nail Yakupov has three points, all assists, in his two preseason games.
Meanwhile their goaltending has been very good thus far with Semyon Varlamov posting a 1.29 goals against average and a .951 save percentage while backup Jonathan Bernier follows closely behind with a 1.84 GAA and .940 SV%.
It's just the preseason, of course, but any positive signs for the Avalanche have to be a much welcome change of pace from the utter disaster that was last season.
The fate of the defensemen
This has been an ongoing talking point for us during the preseason. I suspect seven or eight roster spots being allocated to defensemen (six starters, two scratched) and at least four of those spots appear spoken for.
Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, and Jason Garrison seem to have locked up spots on the team. Also, considering how well he has played in the preseason and that for the second consecutive night he will be in the lineup, one could guess Shea Theodore will make the roster, too. But, we don’t know that for certain.
This leaves three or four spots open for Deryk Engelland, Theodore, Hunt, Clayton Stoner, Griffin Reinhart, Jon Merrill, and Luca Sbisa. Sbisa, Merrill, and Engelland played last night while Stoner and Hunt draw in tonight. Interestingly Reinhart will not play in this one. Despite a pretty good showing in the preseason he will now sit for the second consecutive game.
As mentioned in our post-game on Tuesday, Engelland, Sbisa, and Merrill all looked good so one has to believe they are in the driver’s seat. We know general manager George McPhee intends on making at least one trade so it is safe to say whoever comes out of this game not in one of those roster spots could find themselves on a plane elsewhere before Vegas opens the season in Dallas.
Top line needs to build on chemistry
For Reilly Smith, Marchessault, and Vadim Shipachyov, the game tonight gives them an opportunity to build on the offensive chemistry we saw against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. they had multiple opportunities and, at least early on, were driving play for the Golden Knights. There was just one problem. They didn’t score.
The de facto top line for the Golden Knights will need to put up points this season if the Knights have any shot at not finishing dead last in the NHL. When James Neal comes back from injury one would have to assume he will slide into the second line with Cody Eakin and David Perron, so this line is what we will see for the long haul. They need to find ways to turn chemistry into pucks in the net.
Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT. FOX Sports Radio has the action on 98.9 FM/1340 AM, and the game will be on AT&T SportsNet.