The Golden Knights are seven games into the season, going on eight, and this is the first time they’re facing one of their division rivals. Last year, both the Anaheim Ducks and Golden Knights were playoff teams, though they both achieved much different things in the postseason. Both the Knights and Ducks are driven by excellent goaltenders — Marc-Andre Fleury and John Gibson, respectively — and explosive offensive defensemen such as Vegas’ Colin Miller and Shea Theodore and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler and Brandon Montour.
This season, both teams are missing core players. Alex Tuch’s return is unknown, Paul Stastny could be out for two months and Nate Schmidt is suspended. Corey Perry is out and Ryan Getzlaf is also hurt, though it’s likely he could return to the lineup against the Golden Knights.
These teams are very similar, but here’s what could push the Golden Knights over the edge.
Shea Theodore revenge game
Last year in the three games against the team that traded him to Vegas, Theodore had two points; a goal and an assist. With a slow start this season, not scoring until last Tuesday when he added a primary assist to Cody Eakin’s shorthanded goal against the Sabres, Theodore needs something that could get him going offensively. While the bruised ego is not quite as fresh as it was last year, Theodore should have some vengeance still out for the Ducks.
While the Ducks aren’t the Tampa Bay Lightning (against whom Theodore rocked for 1-4—5 in two games), they’re a team who could let Theodore get going. After all, Theodore is at least one of the two most important offensive defensemen the Golden Knights have, and he’ll see plenty of opportunities to generate scoring chances.
The Anaheim Ducks have had 16 players score at least a point so far this season. The Golden Knights have had 14. The problem is, 10 of those players for Vegas have only scored one point. For Anaheim, only four players have one point. The rest have had multi-point performances to this point in the season.
Even with Getzlaf returning to the first line, or especially because of that, the Golden Knights will need to win the depth battle in this game. If not offensively, then defensively. Ryan Kesler has four points in four games. Now he’ll be bumped down to the second line where he’ll face less competition.
The Ducks also have a number of young players who could make an impact in this game. Maxime Comtois, Sam Steel and Kiefer Sherwood all have multiple points so far this season. The Knights will need to rely on their recent additions to outgun these players. Max Pacioretty and Tomas Hyka both need to be especially good in this game.
Slowing down the defense
Speaking of multi-point performances, the Ducks have had four defensemen record at least one point so far this season. Hampus Lindholm has 2-5—7 in seven games. Cam Fowler has three assists, Josh Manson has two and Brandon Montour and Marcus Pettersson have one.
That leaves the Golden Knights in the situation of having to defend the defenders. That means the forwards need to step up both at even strength and on the penalty kill and take away the Ducks’ offensive motor at the point. This game won’t just be on the defensemen to take a step forward defensively. The forwards must do so as well.
How to Watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM