With two wins in hand over the Nashville Predators, the Vegas Golden Knights go for the season sweep of the Western Conference champions tonight at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators have gone 1-1-1 since the last time they faced Vegas. Going into the bye week losing three of their previous four likely wasn't a fun experience. Coming out of the break against the Golden Knights likely won't be either.
The Knights demonstrated against the Edmonton Oilers that coming out of the bye week is an ordeal. Now, the Predators will have to go through that ordeal. At least the Golden Knights weren’t in Cabo the last few days. Marc-Andre Fleury is in goal for Vegas, and Cody Eakin and Brendan Leipsic will not play. Ryan Carpenter will slide into the third center role with Oscar Lindberg and Alex Tuch.
Here’s what to watch for.
The power play
The Golden Knights are 1-for-23 on the power play dating back to Dec. 23. That is not decent, nor great. Vegas had six chances with the man advantage on Saturday in the 3-2 loss to Edmonton and did not produce anything offensively. On the road, against a tough team, the Golden Knights need to capitalize on those opportunities.
It’s essential for Vegas to get something going. The Golden Knights have scored in both games against Nashville with the man advantage (2-for-5 overall). Normally, scoring one should get a team on track, but Vegas continues to fall into power-play slumps after one great game.
Clear the crease
Another way to keep the Predators out of the net is to keep the crease clear. Don't let the Predators get to the paint, and they have trouble scoring. Take a look at this from Vegas’ 3-0 win over Nashville on Jan. 2.
The Predators take almost no shots from right in front of the goal. They take very few from the immediate side, either. That limits the Predators' ability to score on the rebound. Here's the heat map for the 4-3 shootout win.
All three goals came from the home-plate area that defines high-danger chances. The one directly in the crease isn't helpful, either. There's a huge difference between the two games, and the defense has to follow the shutout's model and keep Nashville away from the net.
Get to the circle
Five of the Golden Knights' six regulation goals against Nashville have come from either within the faceoff circles or the immediate vicinity. That's an important trait to note because it shows the weaknesses of the Predators' defense and goaltending.
Getting shots off from the circles will be an important part of the game for the Knights. It wouldn't be surprising to see multiple goals from those locations, that's if the Knights can get shots there.
The other important part of the offense for the Knights will be getting traffic in the crease. Most of the shots from the faceoff circle come with some sort of screen, which helps limit the goaltender's ability to stop the puck. Get traffic, and the Knights stand a better chance of sweeping the Predators.
How to watch
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, SN, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM
Time: 5 p.m. PT