The Vegas Golden Knights return to action against the Los Angeles Kings after a boring, quiet Monday.
The Knights look keep up with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the standings while Los Angeles is currently on the outside looking in. However, the Kings could tie with the Calgary Flames for a playoff spot if they get a win over the Golden Knights. So far, though, the Kings have failed to do so.
In the previous two matchups between these teams, the Knights won 4-2 and 3-2, respectively, with the 3-2 victory coming in overtime. Fortunately for the Kings, they have one of their most important forwards coming back. Jeff Carter was activated off injured reserve Saturday just in time for the Kings' game against the Edmonton Oilers. He played 17 minutes, but didn’t register a point, meaning he'll be hungry for one against Vegas.
Comeback kids and new arrivals
Which brings up Vegas' own returning players and newcomers.
The first is James Neal, who's returning from a brief stint on IR. He'll be looking to improve the power play and the second line, which could use his scoring touch. The other addition is Ryan Reaves, who will be playing in his first game with the Golden Knights. It is yet to be seen what Reaves can do with his position on the Knights, or how long the experiment will last. But if he performs admirably, he might get an extended look.
Another Knight who could see some action is Shea Theodore, who would also be returning from an IR stint. It remains unclear if Theodore will be ready to go, though.
Luca Sbisa needs to step up his game
In the four games that Sbisa has played since returning from injury, he’s had a negative plus/minus twice. Against the Vancouver Canucks, Sbisa was at least partially at fault for both even-strength goals and was the only Golden Knight on ice for both. His Corsi relative to the team was -12.22 percent. Here's the worst play he made against Vancouver:
Canucks take advantage of a neutral zone turnover to tie the game up. It's 1-1. pic.twitter.com/jm5OmfLwIt— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) February 24, 2018
Takes himself completely out of the play. Sbisa can't do anything like this against the Kings. He's already on thin ice — he played the fewest minutes of any Knights defenseman against the Canucks. William Karlsson, a forward, played more time. That's not good.
The new power play is the old power play
Since Jan. 21, the Knights are 15-for-36 with Neal on the power play. That includes a nine-game stretch with at least one power play goal. When Neal went down, the Knights kept ticking, but at a slower pace.
The first game without Neal, the Knights went 0-for-2. Since then, they were 1-for-2 twice. That's a 33.3 percent success rate, versus with Neal a 41.67 percent success rate.
With Neal returning to the lineup, the power play should continue to excel, which is great news for the Golden Knights, who are 15-4-1 when the power play scores.
The Merrill-Miller pairing is quietly great
At even strength, both Jon Merrill and Colin Miller's possession stats go up when they're together versus when they're apart. They have a 56.87 Corsi For percentage, 59.75 percent shot share, 73.33 goal share and 60 percent high-danger share. For a third pairing, those numbers are great.
That pairing has also been reliable over the past two games. They've only allowed one goal — in that 7-3 thrashing the Knights served the Flames — and made up for it with two goals for. Against the Canucks, the third pair wasn't scored on. Their Corsi stands at 32-23, including a 20-9 ratio against Vancouver.
When Theodore does show back up, Merrill might be the defenseman to keep on the bottom pairing, while putting Theo back with Deryk Engelland.
How to Watch:
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM