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Gameday: Golden Knights close out 2018 on road against Coyotes

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Fresh off its win in Los Angeles, Vegas hopes to keep the momentum going in the right direction.

NHL: Preseason-Arizona Coyotes at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights started off their back-to-back the best way possible. Malcolm Subban finally got his first win, and Vegas scored four quality goals to secure their first victory against the Los Angeles Kings this season.

So, after defeating the worst team in the Pacific Division (and the NHL), the Golden Knights head back to the desert to play the second worst team in the Pacific Division — the Arizona Coyotes.

Aside from the Edmonton Oilers, the Coyotes are the only other team in the Pacific with a losing record in the last 10 games. In regards to how fresh they’ll be tonight, Arizona and Vegas will be equals. They played the Anaheim Ducks last night, winning 5-4 in overtime. Both are coming off division wins, but, as in all NHL games, one will have to fall today.

Here’s what to watch for as the Golden Knights play the Coyotes.

Down, but not out

The NHL season is a long one. It’s 82 games over six months. Arizona’s start hasn’t been wonderful, though.

Like the Golden Knights, the Coyotes have been bit by the injury bug (more on that later). Unlike the Golden Knights, the Coyotes haven’t really stepped up to the plate to overcome the challenge. None of their players have scored more than 10 goals. They also aren’t able to offset their lack of scoring chances with good defensive play. Their Corsi for sits at 49.82 percent. With high danger scoring chances, it’s 46.91 percent. Not good.

Still, Arizona is only seven points away from a wild card spot. It’s a long road get there, but it’s only December. The All-Star break hasn’t even happened. Could the Coyotes, in theory, use this game against their fellow Pacific team to spark a turnaround?

Crazier things have happened. The Golden Knights went to the Stanley Cup Final in their first year of existence, after all. But Arizona needs a massive offensive push tonight in order to make magic happen.

Utilizing every line

For a team that couldn’t get a lot of offense going in the beginning of the season, the Golden Knights sure look good now. Vegas has scored an average of 3.1 goals in the last 10 games. Half of those games were on the road. Much of this success has been attributed something Vegas is known for — utilizing all of their lines.

While the first and second lines certainly generate the most scoring chances, the third and fourth lines have come through consistently to get the job done. William Carrier scored his eighth goal of the season yesterday against the Kings. He now has the seventh-most amount of goals on the team.

Vegas has struggled with “consistency” this season, but their ability to create scoring chances on all lines has definitely picked up over the last twenty games. And it shows in their success lately. Depth is key for this Golden Knights team, and they’ll continue to use that depth tonight.

Everyone’s injured, and it’s fine!

Speaking of depth, just imagine what the Golden Knights would be this season if everyone was healthy. Max Pacioretty, Eric Haula and Colin Miller are all on injured reserve at the moment. That hasn’t stopped Vegas from building a winning team.

Forward Brandon Pirri has been present in every one of the five games he’s played, earning 5 points along the way. His scoring heroics have certainly put him on fans’ radars. He even forced a turnover yesterday, leading to a goal from Alex Tuch. For someone who’s not known for being a defensive player, he came through against the Kings. Others who have stepped up in light of injuries throughout the season are Cody Eakin and the entire fourth line.

Injuries have been a sore spot for Vegas since October, but it’s good to see that the team can hold their own in the meantime. Arizona hasn’t been so lucky. Their top goal scorer, Brad Richardson, was out the last two games with the flu. His status tonight is undetermined. Antti Raanta and Dave Bolland are out for the entire season. The Coyotes are struggling in part due to these injuries. That’s something they’ll have to overcome tonight.

How to Watch

Time: 5 p.m. PT

TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports Arizona, NHL.TV

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM, ESPN Deportes 1460 AM