After a close game in the Fortress against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vegas Golden Knights are ready to move forward and take on their next challenge. Tonight, they play the Los Angeles Kings for the first time since sweeping them in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Kings have seen better days. Injuries have plagued their players, and they’ve already had their head coach replaced this season. They have 21 points — the lowest in the NHL.
That doesn’t mean Los Angeles is going down without a fight, though. Even though Vegas has only had a team for a year, they’ve already formed a healthy rivalry with the Kings. That tension alone will certainly add more excitement to this matchup.
Here’s what to look for as the Golden Knights play the Kings on the road.
“Hello darkness, my old friend”
Some would say the Kings are the Golden Knights’ greatest rival. Maybe it’s the proximity of Las Vegas to Los Angeles, or perhaps it was the bold claim Drew Doughty made that Vegas had no chance of beating out the Kings by the end of the season (funny how that worked out).
While they were two dominant teams in the Western Conference last season, the Golden Knights and Kings are now meeting under very different circumstances. Vegas has only recently pushed its record above .500 for the first time all season. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is currently the worst team in the NHL.
Of course, the Golden Knights won’t be taking it easy just because they can. A divisional matchup may be exactly what the Kings need to wake up.
Making magic on the first line
Lately it’s been all about the second line. Max Pacioretty returned from his injury with a vengeance, Cody Eakin has already scored as many goals as he did last season, and Alex Tuch is simply dominating on all fronts. After their game against the Blackhawks, though, the Golden Knights must be just as thrilled that their first line seems to be heating up again.
William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith were, defensively, not remarkable in their last game. All had a Corsi For percentage under 45.5 percent at even strength. But offensively, they delivered. Karlsson and Marchessault earned one point Thursday night, and Smith picked up two.
GOAL. Marchessault lasers one past Crawford to tie the game. pic.twitter.com/wPtlDqSTfo— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 7, 2018
Last year, the Golden Knights’ first line was electric, but they got by with a little help from their other teammates. Scoring wasn’t just concentrated to Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith. This year is proving to be no different — and the second line is an obvious indication of this.
Nevertheless, Vegas turns to the men on the first line to make plays. Their win against the Blackhawks only cemented how important they are. Expect them to take charge in Los Angeles.
Malcolm Subban’s time to shine
So far this season, the Kings have scored an average of about 2.14 goals per game.
You know what that means? Tonight is the perfect opportunity for the Golden Knights to rest their superhuman goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Tonight might be Malcolm Subban’s night.
The Golden Knights have smartly opted to use Fleury while he’s hot, and use him they have. He’s on pace to play nearly 3,320 minutes this season. To put that in perspective, his career high is 3019:34.
Vegas’ backup goalie has not been very lucky. Subban has lost all four games he started with a save percentage of .859. Nevertheless, some have praised his performance, citing his excellent positioning and his improvement stopping the puck down low. What better time to put Subban in the crease than against the worst team in the NHL?
After their game in Los Angeles, the Golden Knights head right back home to play the Dallas Stars on Sunday, who are currently on a four-game win streak. In this back-to-back, the team would be better off saving Fleury for Sunday and using Subban in Los Angeles.
How to Watch
Time: 1 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM