The Vegas Golden Knights are in one of those fun positions where it doesn’t matter who’s in the lineup; they keep winning.
The end result is a five-game winning streak for the Golden Knights, their longest of the season. They’ll look to make that six games when they host the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
Vegas sent Brandon Pirri back to AHL Chicago (the angry mob still resides outside City National Arena), but the returning Max Pacioretty is already making an impact. Thus, the second line is healthy again and Vegas is slowly getting back to full strength.
But that’s not to diminish what Pirri did for Vegas in Pacioretty’s absence. Vegas has outscored opponents 16-5 during its winning streak, and Pirri was a main component for that success with nine points in seven games (six goals, three assists). Alas, Pirri gets sent to Chicago and he’s back to scoring goals.
The luxury of riches resides in Vegas, but maybe not as much for the Devils. Despite them winning five of seven (5-0-2) in its past seven, New Jersey is running shop without reigning Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall and goalie success story Mackenzie Blackwood, both out due to injury. Keith Kinkaid will get the start for the Devils (Kinkaid was expected to start regardless of Blackwood’s health).
Here’s what to watch for in this Sunday matinee.
67-26-89 rides again
The reasons for sending Pirri back to the Wolves are understandable by this point. If you believe assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon’s words of Pirri “will be back” in Vegas at some point, that’s reason to be optimistic.
But Pirri’s reassignment and Pacioretty’s activation from injured reserve prior to Vegas’ 3-2 win against Anaheim on Friday has restored the hype of the all-potential and all-mysterious Pacioretty-Paul Stastny-Alex Tuch line.
The triad accounted for the game-winning goal against the Ducks — scored by Pacioretty, assisted by Stastny and Tuch. What has been proven is anyone can play on that line and good things will happen. Exhibit A, Cody Eakin. Exhibit B, goal-scoring savant Pirri. But I’m still of the mindset that the Golden Knights will go as far as 67-26-89 takes them. As Vegas approaches the All-Star break, all three just need to stay healthy.
That’s honestly about it. Seriously. They need a bigger sample size.
Taking advantage of banged-up Devils
New Jersey has won five of seven. The fact it’s still 16-17-7 to this point is really a miracle, given the Devils are without the reigning MVP and are down a couple of goaltenders.
It goes without saying how important Hall is to the Devils’ success. The task of replacing him on the top line might be a daunting one for former No. 1 pick Nick Hischier. He draws that assignment at the moment. As for Blackwood, the goaltending sensation sustained a lower-body injury Friday and his status going forward beyond Sunday is in doubt.
That leaves Kinkaid as, for now, the only goaltender with Cory Schneider still on injured reserve. He made 15 saves in relief for Blackwood in Friday’s 3-2 win against the Coyotes. If you recall, Kinkaid also came in to relieve Schnieder after being pulled in the Dec. 14 meeting against the Golden Knights; the one Vegas blew a three-goal lead and lost 5-4 in overtime Dec. 14.
It’s a banged-up team that has still found ways to win games by this point; but the Golden Knights absolutely need to take care of business at home against a team that’s far from full strength.
Afternoon games are fun
This is really just a proclamation. There’s nothing wrong with these, especially on a Sunday. I’m more in favor of these. What if all the West Coast teams just played home games at 1? Wouldn’t that be something. Enjoy the game.
How to watch
Time: 1 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM