Coming out of the five-day bye week, the Vegas Golden Knights remain atop the Western Conference with 60 points and four games in hand over the second-place Winnipeg Jets. Saturday night presents an opportunity of redemption after the Oilers treated Vegas to an ugly 8-2 smackdown Nov. 14.
Edmonton has gone 2-6-1 in its last nine games but is coming off a crucial 4-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. The Oilers found themselves down 2-0 just 3:17 into the game but still won off the shoulders of Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse and Al Montoya, who stopped all 19 shots he faced after replacing Cam Talbot.
Though neither team has confirmed a starter for tonight’s matchup, one thing is for sure: unlike in November, Edmonton will not be facing Vegas’ fourth- and fifth-string goalies tonight. Marc-Andre Fleury or Malcolm Subban will man the crease, and the two have combined for 14 wins in the Knights’ last 16 games.
Edmonton may be the more desperate team, but Vegas carries an 18-2-1 record at T-Mobile Arena into tonight’s game. Here are three things to watch for as the Knights host the Oilers.
Can the Knights dust off the rust?
The Oilers are playing in the second half of a back-to-back, which is often a disadvantage, especially against a fast-paced team like the Knights.
That being said, Vegas is coming off a five-day break, which means there could be some rust to fight through. Even though Vegas has gone 14-1-1 in its last 16 games, a break in the schedule like that can often throw things off course.
The last time these teams played, Edmonton jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and it proved to be too much for Vegas to handle. If the Knights get off to a slow start tonight, Edmonton could do the same thing, especially considering McDavid is the most explosive skater in the National Hockey League.
Can the Knights contain Captain Connor?
The answer to this question the last time these teams played was a resounding no.
McDavid was absolutely dominant, picking up two goals and an assist in just over 17 minutes of ice time.
Considering some of the moves he pulled off last night, Vegas could be in for a real handful.
McDavid has 15 goals and 50 points in 45 games this season and is two points shy of reaching 200 career points. He has been especially impressive in recent games, going one-on-five and still managing to create scoring chances, weaving his way through obstacle after obstacle and single-handedly willing his team to stay in games and compete.
The Knights need to be on their game tonight. A careless play here and a moment’s hesitation there could lead to a breakaway opportunity, and if McDavid gets even half a step on the defender, he is gone.
Can the Knights win the special teams battle?
The Golden Knights have the 19th-ranked power play in the NHL with a conversion rate of 18.3 percent. The power play has converted once in five attempts in 2018.
However, Edmonton sits dead last in the league in penalty killing (71.6 percent) and has given up five goals in 17 attempts in this calendar year. Special teams was a key component in the Nov. 14 game as Edmonton scored a short-handed goal, a power-play goal and an even-strength goal in the first period alone.
Vegas, however, went 0-for-4 on the man advantage and was 0-for-3 on the penalty kill. That will have to change tonight.
But watch out: Edmonton is tied for first in the league with seven short-handed goals (scored by five different players), one of which came 6:28 into the opening frame against the Knights Nov. 14.
How to watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, CBC, SN, NHL.TV Free Game
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM
Time: 7 p.m. PT