All eyes are on the situation between the pipes tonight when the Vegas Golden Knights (47-21-5) take on the San Jose Sharks (41-23-9) in a key divisional matchup.
Starting goalie and face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury left Tuesday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after just one period with what is believed to be an injury.
I say “believed” because we don’t know. Not for sure.
There is more secrecy regarding the veteran netminder than scripts for the final season of Game of Thrones or the new Avengers movie.
What we do know is Oscar Dansk has been recalled.
While the Golden Knights enter play tonight needing just five points (or a combination of losses by Los Angeles and Anaheim) to clinch themselves their first playoff spot in team history, they also need a combination of 11 points to clinch the division title over the Sharks who sit eight points back with nine games to play.
This is a big game to be facing without your best goalie.
The Sharks, on the other hand, are winners of five straight and six of their last seven games. They’re coming off a 6-2 thrashing of the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
They’ve scored 27 goals (5.4 per game) over their five game streak.
Leading the charge for the Sharks is center Joe Pavelski, who has a team-best 59 points this season, and has 13 points (four goals) in his last 10. Newly-acquired forward Evander Kane has 10 points in 10 games since being shipped from Buffalo, which San Jose is 8-2-0 in that span.
Norris Trophy winning defenseman Brent Burns, 58 points, and center Logan Couture, who leads the team with 30 goals, round out the Sharks.
Between the pipes for the Sharks is Martin Jones (26-18-6) , whohas played 52 games this season putting up a 2.50 goals against average and .916 save percentage, which are in line with his career averages.
Solid If Unspectacular: The Martin Jones story.
Here are two things to look for as the Golden Knights take on the Sharks.
Next Man Up Mentality
We’re used to this. One goalie goes down, another comes in. It was the story for the better part of two months for the Golden Knights and now, with just nine games remaining, it is the story once again.
Will Fleury be ready for the playoffs? Probably. Do we know that for sure?
Hey! Malcolm Subban! We’ve always believed in you, bud.
The young goalie has been solid under pressing times this season for the club. The former first-round pick has posted a .914 save percentage in 17 appearances this season and Vegas will need for him to be much of the same (if not better) going forward.
If he is to be the starting goalie for the Knights in the playoffs (either due to this injury or another), this game at this point of the season is a good warm up for playoff atmosphere hockey.
End of the season brings with it some important statistical milestones to look out for.
William Kalrsson needs one goal to become the first Golden Knight to score 40 in a season. Only 16 times since the lockout shortened 2012-13 season has a player scored 40-goals, and Alex Ovechkin accounts for four of them. Other names on the list include Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pavelski, Patrick Laine, and Auston Matthews.
David Perron is four goals shy of 20, which would mark the fourth time in his career he’s managed to crack the 20-goal mark.
Reilly Smith is three goals shy of his career high of 25 which he had in 2015-16. Erik Haula is two goals shy of his first 30-goal campaign. Colin Miller is one point away from 40 on the season while Nate Schmidt currently sits five points back of 40.
Deryk Engelland is one goal shy of his career high of six. It doesn’t sound like much but the veteran blueliner is in the midst of a career season statistically with his 22 points.
How to Watch
Time : 7 p.m. PT
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM