Tonight, the Golden Knights officially kick off their week in New York as they face the New York Islanders. The Islanders have been the very definition of hit-and-miss. They started strong at 8-5-0, but have been more or less hovering near .500 since then.
Is tonight the night it finally happens? Will the Golden Knights beat the Islanders for the first time? Perhaps the return of a certain forward who’s been injured for over two months will push Vegas over the edge...
Here’s what to look for as the Golden Knights head to Brooklyn to play the Islanders.
The return of Paul Stastny
If you’re watching for anything tonight, watch for the jersey with the number 26 on it.
Paul Stastny has been out with a lower-body injury since Oct. 8. When his injury was reported as month-to-month, it caused some worry. The center had only played in three Golden Knights games when he tumbled in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres.
Here is where Paul Stastny likely got hurt last night, which has caused him to be questionable tomorrow. Final minutes of the game, got his legs taken out from under home. (See next tweet for reaction). #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/qTEE9KrqD1— Jesse Granger (@JesseGranger_) October 9, 2018
During those three games, Stastny hadn’t earned any points, but he was still playing well. At 5-on-5, his Corsi For sits at 60.24 percent, and his Fenwick for at 51.87 percent. This is may not be sustainable, but considering how badly the team was struggling on defense at the time, Stastny was getting the job done.
It hasn’t been confirmed that Vegas’ free agency pickup will play tonight, but he is joining the team on the road. He was also a full participant in practice Tuesday. Take that as you will.
Depth on depth
The news that Stastny’s injury wasn’t just a simple day-to-day situation terrified some Golden Knights fans. The worries didn’t subside as the second line fell prone to more injuries. Max Pacioretty was out for some time, Cody Eakin missed the first three games and Alex Tuch wasn’t able to make his season debut until Oct. 24. Not to mention Erik Haula was last seen with crutches, so, that’s how that’s going.
Still, the second line hasn’t just survived, but thrived. In its current form, Pacioretty, Tuch, and Eakin have netted 31 goals. The first line has scored four less, and none of that line’s players have been injured. While Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith all have higher Corsi For percentages (Karlsson has the lowest at 53.63), the second line has capitalized on some great goal-scoring opportunities.
With Stastny’s potential return, no one knows what’s going to happen on the second and third lines. Will Pacioretty be reunited with his friend and Olympic teammate on the second line? It’s certainly possible, especially considering how hyped the duo was when Pacioretty was signed.
But Tuch and Eakin have found a great groove on the second line, and their chemistry with Pacioretty is undeniable. It seems wrong to split them up. Besides, Gerard Gallant may want Stastny to ease in by joining the third line.
It’s hard to know what’ll happen, so we’ll just say that nothing should be ruled out.
Beating the Islanders’ perfect record
Here’s a fun reminder: the Golden Knights have never won a game against the Islanders.
That’s right. On their journey to the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas could not defeat the Islanders. The Islanders, the crown jewel of Long Island, went 35-37-10 in the 2017-18 season. Two of those wins were against the Golden Knights.
The Islanders are doing a little better this season. Coming off a road loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout, the Islanders now have a record of 14-11-4.
One aspect that will determine the outcome of this game will be goalies. Obviously there is speculation surrounding Malcolm Subban’s next start, but many are also wondering if the Islanders will start Robin Lehner. Lehner has been battling a back injury for six weeks, but he started against the Penguins on Monday and made 23 saves. If he can play again, the Islanders goalie may be a force to be reckoned with.
Goalies aside, the Golden Knights cannot get into the mentality that this will be an easy game to win. The opponent sits at third in the Metropolitan Division. The Knights seem to falter against teams that should be easy to beat (*cough* Kings *cough*). The same happened last year with the Islanders, twice! If they want to start the New York games off right, they have to bring their all tonight.
Time: 4 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain, MSG Plus, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM