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3 things to watch for as the Golden Knights host the Blue Jackets

Tonight is the first-ever matchup between these two expansion franchises and is the first of two meetings this season.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights are back in second place in the NHL standings after the Tampa Bay Lightning pulled off a 2-0 victory over the Blackhawks last night. That just sucks. Both teams are in action tonight, so a Vegas loss to Columbus and a Tampa Bay win in Nashville could put the Lightning three points up in the President’s Trophy race.

Still weird how we’re talking about this.

In any case, the Knights are coming off a convincing win in Raleigh in which they scored three first-period goals and chased yet another goaltender, this time Scott Darling. ICYMI, here’s a condensed version of the game.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets have played just one game since Jan. 12 and will be very well-rested for tonight’s contest. The Jackets have scored just 11 goals in the month of January, going 4-3-0 with three games requiring extra time. While Columbus has retained its spot in the playoffs despite the down time, tonight’s game is especially important as six teams in the Metropolitan Division are separated by just three points.

Sniper Artemi Panarin leads the Jackets in scoring with 12 goals and 38 points, though defenseman Seth Jones has been particularly effective in recent games, recording six points in his last five games and 13 points in his last 13.

Here are three things to watch for as the Knights take on the Blue Jackets for the first time ever.

Will Wild Bill make his former team pay?

This will be William Karlsson’s first chance to face his former team after he was left exposed by Columbus in the expansion draft last summer. Karlsson has set career highs across the board and is second on the Knights in scoring with 40 points. No one on the Blue Jackets has reached the 40-point threshold yet, so Karlsson has already proven he is worth much more than the Blue Jackets organization realized. That being said, it remains to be seen whether he will drive the nail a little further by finding twine in tonight’s matchup. Wild Bill has points in three straight games and in six out of his last seven, collecting a total of five goals and seven points in that stretch.

How special will the special teams be?

The Knights finally made something of their power play by going 2-for-4 against Carolina Sunday night. However, the Knights remain fourth worst in the league on the man advantage in 2018, converting on just 12.5 percent of their chances (3-for-24). The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, have scored four goals in 16 attempts in 2018, which ranks seventh overall.

That being said, it’s important to note that Columbus has had the worst power play this season (13.3 percent). Plus, Vegas has been especially strong on the penalty kill since Jan. 1, killing off 90.5 percent of opponents’ power play opportunities. Further, the Blue Jackets are operating at a 66.7 percent kill rate in 2018. These numbers could be indicative of how things will play out in tonight’s game, though goaltenders on both sides have the ability to take matters into their own hands.

Battle of the crease

It’s no secret that both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban have been excellent all season. But the man in the other crease also knows a thing or two about stealing games.

Sergei Bobrovsky is 21-14-3 with a 2.43 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 38 starts this season. He hasn’t been quite as sharp in recent games, however, which is a big reason why Columbus has struggled. Bobrovsky has gone 4-6-2 in his last 12 games and has given up four-plus goals on four occasions. He has lost each of his last two games but always has the ability to single-handedly take over a game.

On the other end of the rink, it’s likely that Fleury will make his 17th start of the year. He is coming off a strong 5-1 win against the Hurricanes and has given up a combined total of nine goals in his last seven games. This could shape up to be quite a dual between two goalies quite familiar with each other.


How to Watch

TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, SN360, NHL.TV

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM

Time: 7 p.m. PT