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4 things to watch as the Golden Knights take on the Oilers

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Uh oh. Connor McDavid is back.

Vegas Golden Knights v Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers looks for an opportunity against Malcolm Subban and Shea Theodore
Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The last time the Vegas Golden Knights took on the Edmonton Oilers, Vegas won 6-3. It was the game before a 7-2 shellacking from the Calgary Flames and two games before the Golden Knights responded by going on a five-game (so far) winning streak.

The Oilers have also responded nicely, going 3-1-1 since the hiring of Ken Hitchcock after the game against Vegas (the Golden Knights got a coach fired!). Both teams are within playoff range and, even though it’s past Thanksgiving, that’s still huge. This could also be a high-scoring contest like the last one, although Edmonton has allowed more than three goals just once since the last game between these two games.

There will also be some competition for Vegas’ second line as the best line in the building when Connor McDavid takes the ice with Alex Chiasson and Leon Draisaitl, a line that has 37 goals between them this season.

The “fourth” line excels

It seems like Ryan Reaves might be on the quietest point streak in recent memory right now. With William Karlsson and Max Pacioretty on simultaneous streaks and Reilly Smith just recently off of his, nobody’s talking about Reaves as much as they should.

That’s been the story of the fourth line this year. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and his two wrecking balls have been on fire this season, and that has continued in this win streak. It’s partially because of the work ethic of the fourth line, willing to work their way into the offensive zone and find ways to grind and keep the puck, as was on display during their shift that led to Vegas’s first goal against Vancouver.

The fourth line all has Corsis and shot shares over 50 percent (William Carrier is lowest with 55 and 55.93 percent) and high-danger shares over 75 percent. They haven’t been scored on at even strength in the last five games and have six points between the three of them. This might be a crucial line moving forward and could be a dangerous matchup against Edmonton’s (lack of) depth.

They’re still streaking

Speaking of streaks, Pacioretty and Karlsson remain on goal and point streaks. Pacioretty has gone seven straight games with at least one point and Karlsson has gone three straight games with a goal. Two of the Knights’ key top-six forwards are re-emerging from cold streaks and it couldn’t happen at a better time.

Marc-Andre Fleury has five straight wins and should likely start against Edmonton as well. In those five wins, he has only been below a .900 save percentage once (in his 21-save performance against the Chicago Blackhawks) and has two shutouts.

Reilly Smith isn’t officially on a streak anymore, but he has 10 points in his last seven games, and that should still get mentioned. Also, the power play has gone four straight games with a goal. That kind of heat flowing from the Golden Knights is straight lava and momentum for these guys could be crucial against perhaps the league’s best player.

Shutting down McDavid

The last time Connor McDavid played against the Golden Knights, he put up a goal while playing mostly against Nick Holden and Deryk Engelland. This time, he won’t get that same pairing, but who could he get?

Likely Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb, who both took shifts against McDavid, just on separate pairings. This time, as the Knights’ first defensive pair, they should be the ones responsible for shutting him down. Schmidt has played well since coming back and could be the player put into man coverage against McDavid, but it may be smarter for the Golden Knights to play the zone here.

Still, if Schmidt can prove responsible for McDavid and McNabb can focus on his linemates, which could include the new addition Valentin Zykov, that should mean good things for the Golden Knights and an easier time for Fleury.

All pairings could take shifts against McDavid, however (they did last time), and this will be an effort that more than one pairing needs to undertake. Shea Theodore will need to be better and Colin Miller will need to be more careful with those turnovers (21 at even strength so far this year).

Getting offense from the defense

Through more than a quarter of the season, three defensemen haven’t been great offensively. Engelland has three points (all came in the 8-3 win against Chicago), Brayden McNabb has two (didn’t score until the Nov. 21 game against Arizona) and Nate Schmidt has one assist (a secondary) through seven games.

Meanwhile, Nick Holden has eight points through 27 games, Miller has 12, and Theodore has 15. Brad Hunt also has five points in nine games, and should probably get additional looks in the lineup.

If the Golden Knights are going to grind back into a better position than they are right now, they’ll need more offensive output out from those three. Last season, Engelland finished with a career-high 23 points, McNabb had 15, and Schmidt had 36 in 76 games.

The positive note is, each of them are due for some sort of comeback, especially in terms of goals. Zero percent shooting percentages are, um... rare (only 17 players across the NHL had a zero percent shooting percentage last season with more shots than McNabb or Engelland have now).


How to Watch

Time: 7 p.m. PT

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM