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3 things to watch for as the Golden Knights take on the Ducks, again

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Home sweet home.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller (6) skates against Anaheim Ducks center Rickard Rakell (67)
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights are 7-10-1. Not nearly good enough for the first 18 games after going to the Stanley Cup Final. The Golden Knights have a Stanley Cup Final migraine that they haven’t been able to cure yet.

But the Anaheim Ducks represent a potential cure. The last time these two teams met, Vegas won 3-1 in dominating fashion. John Gibson did his best to steal the game for the Ducks, but the Golden Knights were just too overpowering.

Here’s how the Knights can get another win against an important division rival.

Power play

In four of the Golden Knights’ seven wins this season, the power play has played an important role. That number would likely be higher, but, you know, the 24th-best power play, even after a recent offensive explosion, doesn’t do much in terms of securing wins.

The power play needs to be better. We’ve written countless articles about it, how the luck is just not swinging the Golden Knights’ way. But the two new units seemed to be working for a while, at least until the game against the Boston Bruins, when the Knights just couldn’t get anything going, or at least anything past Jaroslav Halak.

See, Vegas delivered nine shots and four high-danger chances in eight minutes of time with the man advantage. If the Knights are able to build on that against the Ducks, they could see more than one power-play goal. After all, they beat Gibson on the power play with 11 shots and just two high-danger chances in 8:30 the last time around.

The chances will come against Anaheim’s penalty kill. It’s all about making sure they’re the right ones for Vegas.

Defense

This defensive heat map looks really good, but those areas of red near the net indicate something that is becoming more and more alarming — the Knights are giving up too many high-danger chances. At 5-on-5, the Golden Knights have allowed 142 high-danger chances. Even though that’s the 12th-best rate in the NHL, the Knights should be aiming for an even more favorable result.

The defense also needs to give up fewer turnovers. Colin Miller is 47th in the league in turnovers with 13. The same number as Aaron Ekblad, Julius Honka and Jake Gardiner. While Shea Theodore has given up just five — and has the best turnover ratio in the league at 5-on-5 — the rest of the team needs to be better.

All things considered, the defense hasn’t been as bad as most would assume. The stats suggest that Vegas’ defense may actually be... okay. But it will be an important factor tonight, and it’s something that will need to improve moving forward if the Knights want to start trending in the right direction.

Get the core back on track

Speaking of Shea, Theodore has just seven points this season in 18 games, which is not good enough. With 29 points in 61 games last year, Theodore is not currently on pace to beat that. That’s because of a lack of assists, dropping from a rate of .38 per game last year to .28 this season.

That’s where the rest of the core comes in. Reilly Smith has just seven points himself and hasn’t scored a goal since Oct. 30. William Karlsson has 14 points in 18 games, but he’s only got four goals, scoring most recently in his three-point effort against Montreal but going through a two-week goalless drought prior to that contest.

Jonathan Marchessault has 15 points in 18 games but hasn’t been the same playmaker he was last season and hasn’t contributed an assist since Nov. 1.

Max Pacioretty hasn’t had any scoring luck this season. Paul Stastny has been hurt since game three. The two best depth scorers so far this season have arguably been Cody Eakin and Ryan Reaves.

Nate Schmidt is suspended. Alex Tuch has turned it on in recent games and has nine points in 10 games. Marc-Andre Fleury has been disappointing with a .895 save percentage, which would be his worst regular-season rate ever.

The core group of players for Vegas hasn’t been good enough. That needs to change if Vegas is going to start winning again.

How to Watch

Time: 7:30 p.m. PT

TV: NBC Sports

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM