This could be a trap game for the Golden Knights.
Because the Pittsburgh Penguins should not be this good. Alas, here they are, despite accumulating 173 man-games lost this season.
The Penguins come in tied for second place in the Metro with the New York Islanders despite injuries to Sidney Crosby (core muscle surgery), Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Justin Schultz (lower body) and Jake Guentzel (shoulder surgery).
Good news for the Penguins: Crosby participated at morning skate, but the bad news is he’s an extra and will not play at Vegas tonight.
That’s even better news for the Golden Knights, as well as the return of center Cody Eakin. The oft-injured Eakin (upper body) will play for the first time since Nov. 29. Jonathan Marchessault (lower body) is a game-time decision but there is growing optimism that he will return to the top line.
Marc-Andre Fleury will make his fifth consecutive start, this one against his former team; the club he won the Stanley Cup with three times and won the bulk of his games. Fleury is 3-1-0 in four starts against his former club, including a 29-save shutout he had at Pittsburgh in October.
“It’s always interesting playing old friends and teammates,” Fleury said. “They’re a very solid team; they’ve had a lot of injuries, but they’ve been winning a lot of games. We’ll have to be ready for them.”
Vegas is going for its fifth straight win and will try to remain perfect on this season-long seven-game homestand, fresh off a 5-4 win against the defending Cup champion Blues on Saturday. The Golden Knights rallied from three goals down in the first period, the first such comeback in the team’s history. Chandler Stephenson, who has five goals with the Golden Knights since they acquired him in a trade with the Washington Capitals on Dec. 2, scored the game-winning goal with 1:59 remaining in overtime.
These bits of info obviously point in favor to the Golden Knights, who are 2-0-0 against the Penguins at T-Mobile Arena. This could be a trap game for the Golden Knights. Pittsburgh, despite losing 4-1 on Sunday at home to the Florida Panthers, went 10-2 in December, the best mark in the League. That should translate well for Pittsburgh’s run against the Western Conference; the Penguins are a league-best 16-4-2 against Western Conference foes, and surging young goalie Tristan Jarry is 8-0-1 against the West since Nov. 25.
“Every team in the league is good. Any team can win on any given night,” said defenseman Deryk Engelland. “Yeah, they’re banged up, but they’ve got a lot of dangerous guys. If we get into that turnover type game, that’s where they feed off of. They’re a great transition team. We’ve got to play them down low and in their zone, wear them down and limit those turnovers for them to feed off of.”
Penguins projected lineup
Dominik Kahun -- Evgeni Malkin -- Bryan Rust
Dominik Simon -- Jared McCann -- Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese -- Teddy Blueger -- Brandon Tanev
Alex Galchenyuk -- Andrew Agozzino -- Sam Lafferty
Jack Johnson -- Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson -- John Marino
Juuso Riikola -- Chad Ruhwedel
Golden Knights projected lineup
Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty -- Chandler Stephenson -- Mark Stone
William Carrier -- Paul Stastny -- Alex Tuch
Tomas Nosek -- Cody Eakin -- Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb -- Nate Schmidt
Nicolas Hague -- Shea Theodore
Nick Holden -- Deryk Engelland
How to watch:
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM