The All-Star break/bye week is finally over after what feels like an eternity. Did you know the last time the Vegas Golden Knights played was nine days ago? Man. That narrow loss to the Nashville Predators is long gone from our memories.
That might be a good thing. The All-Star break could not have come at a better time for Vegas. They entered the break on a two-game losing streak, with both losses coming on home ice. The nine days off (aside from Marc-Andre Fleury, who seemed like he had a lot of fun!) surely were some for much-needed rest. Now, it’s time to pounce.
Who better to pounce on than the Carolina Hurricanes, then? The Hurricanes are one of those “eh, they’re fine” teams. Unlike Vegas, Carolina had a great showing in their last game before the All-Star break with a 5–2 win against the Vancouver Canucks.
Worth noting, the Hurricanes do have a losing record, but a 6-3-1 record in their last ten games. The Golden Knights’ last ten is nearly identical at 6-4-0. This one could sneak up on Vegas if they aren’t careful. And if their game against Nashville taught them anything, it’s that they should be really, really careful.
Making roster moves
So, Maxime Lagace is back. But we all know that doesn’t matter tonight. If Fleury was given even six hours off, the Golden Knights would find an excuse to play him. Six days since the All-Star Game? Fleury’s your goalie tonight.
That said, there was another interesting roster move Wednesday. The Golden Knights recalled defenseman Jake Bischoff. This was an unexpected move, though it makes some sense given Brad Hunt’s trade to the Minnesota Wild.
With the Chicago Wolves, Bischoff has earned 11 points with two goals and nine assists. His return to Las Vegas (he was on the team until he was sent down in early October) leaves a lot of questions about the defense. Namely, are the Golden Knights willing to scratch Nick Holden or Jon Merrill tonight to test Bischoff out? It’s tough to say, but given that Holden was a healthy scratch in the last game, it’s certainly possible.
An All-Star among mere mortals
We all know Fleury is starting tonight, so let’s talk about our All-Star for a bit.
About nine minutes into this game, Fleury will have played for more time in this season than he did in the one before. We have 29 games after this one... just wanted to throw that out there.
Fleury still has more wins than any other goalie in the NHL right now. He has more shutouts than anyone. And today, the man is well-rested. When Fleury has ample rest time, he’s unstoppable. In games that come four or more days after the game he played before, his record is 6-1-1 (that last 1 being a shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks).
Will he be able to ward off the Hurricanes? If his shutout in November against Carolina is any indication of how tonight will play our, Fleury should be fairly confident.
Slipping through the cracks
Vegas looked good in their game against the Predators. Their two slip-ups, the allowed goals, occurred within just over three minutes of each other.
Playing a mostly good game of hockey isn’t going to cut it from this point forward. The Golden Knights will have their mistakes against Nashville in the back of their minds.
Inconsistency isn’t necessarily a new theme of this Golden Knights season. Players and coaching staff alike have harped on “playing a full 60 minutes.” Even letting up for three minutes can result in a loss. Vegas knows that firsthand now. If they let their foot off the gas, passes won’t connect, a turnover might occur, holes will form in the defense, and then bam. Hurricanes score.
The Golden Knights want to get the post-All-Star break off on the right foot. Expect them to come in aggressive and sharp as ever tonight.
How to watch
Time: 4:30 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM