Ah, there’s nothing quite like coming off of a big win. Tuesday’s game against the Washington Capitals was perhaps the most exciting game the Vegas Golden Knights have played all season, and to walk away victorious feels so good.
Confidence is running high. Fortunately, the magic doesn’t have to stop here. Vegas is back in the Fortress tonight to take on the Chicago Blackhawks, who are on a five-game losing streak. Playing at home against a team they beat 8–3 in their recent matchup? Bring it.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed in hockey. Like always, the Golden Knights will have to earn their win. They have the pieces to make it happen. It just has to come together like it did when they played in Chicago just a little over a week ago.
Here’s what to look for as the Golden Knights play the Blackhawks for the second time this season.
The new kid in town
Yesterday, the Golden Knights recalled forward Reid Duke from the Chicago Wolves, sending forward Daniel Carr back down. In six games, Carr scored one goal (against the Blackhawks, interestingly enough). Now, it’s time to see what Duke can do.
The 22-year-old from Calgary has earned 13 points in the AHL this season over 22 games. This is a vast improvement from last season, when he earned no points at all over 14 games. Now, the first-ever Golden Knights player gets to prove himself in Vegas.
Will he play against the Blackhawks or be a healthy scratch? That depends on two others: Max Pacioretty and Oscar Lindberg.
Speaking of Pacioretty...
The veteran forward missed the game against Washington because he “tweaked something,” but he was at practice yesterday. That’s a good sign that he may be well enough to play tonight.
Meanwhile, Lindberg showed some promise in the game against the Capitals, earning his first points of the season with two assists. He even had a quality scoring chance in the first period. The chemistry on Vegas’ second line is undeniable, so Lindberg had a challenge when he took Pacioretty’s place, and he delivered.
Alex Tuch uses his long reach to get around Madison Bowey and one-hand pass the puck to Oscar Lindberg on the back door (while being held). Holtby made an excellent save to keep the puck out. pic.twitter.com/7JrgTkERiE— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 5, 2018
If Pacioretty is out, Lindberg will likely take his spot on the second line again, and Duke could be in Carr’s place on the third line. If Pacioretty’s in, it just depends on who Gallant wants to play. Only time will tell.
First to score
In each of the Blackhawks’ last seven games (including the game against the Golden Knights on Nov. 27), they have allowed the opposing team to score first. They’ve lost six of those games.
The Golden Knights don’t have quite as obvious of a pattern. In their last seven games, they’ve only scored first in four of those. They’ve won six of those games, though, so scoring first is certainly beneficial.
Vegas was quick to put numbers on the board in their last matchup against Chicago — Carr scored just two minutes into the game. Against the Blackhawks in particular, scoring first would put the Golden Knights at a clear advantage.
A hero’s welcome
Whether people love him or hate him, there is one name on all hockey fans’ lips right now: Reeeaaavesss.
Ryan Reaves did what many saw as a favor to all NHL players (and others saw as a blatantly illegal hit) when he knocked out Tom Wilson with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit Tuesday. Reaves vs. Wilson has always been an exciting rivalry, but this time, it took them both off the ice. Wilson was injured, and Reaves was ejected due to game misconduct.
No. 75 told reporters that he didn’t expect to be further disciplined, and he was correct. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety chose to let Reaves off without a hearing, or better yet, any sort of suspension.
Expect Golden Knights fans to go crazy when Reaves does absolutely anything of note tonight. If he scores, he would tie his season high of seven goals. How insane is that? Even if he just gets a few hits in, it’ll be a a joy to see him on the ice at all.
How to Watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM