Some talk after last Thursday’s victory against the Minnesota Wild was “statement win.”
And while I may agree that the Golden Knights picked up their most impressive win of the season that night in a 3-2 victory, there’s a few caveats to that.
Minnesota was playing the second game of a back-to-back. Even if it was a cakewalk against the Arizona Coyotes, there’s still travel involved and playing twice in a 24-hour span.
Tuesday is the real measuring stick game. The Carolina Hurricanes visit T-Mobile Arena for the first time since Feb. 8, 2020. I know we’re at a point in the COVID world where we’re just blown away by how long ago something was, but consider the fact Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal that night, Erik Haula made his return to Las Vegas for the first time since being traded to Carolina in that offseason, and that was the home debut for Pete DeBoer as head coach.
If you’ve needed a moment to decompress, go ahead.
Something that wasn’t the case the last time Carolina and Vegas played — it wasn’t a potential Stanley Cup matchup. The Hurricanes are the top team in the league through 13 games via points percentage and trail the Florida Panthers by one point with two games in hand. The last three seasons under coach Rod Brind’Amour have seen a steady growth among the young superstar core, and a commitment to playing the right way under the reigning Jack Adams Award winner.
While this isn’t going to be a full-strength battle that fans would go crazy over, it’s still an important game on different fronts for the home team.
Is the scoring touch back?
Who knew it took Mark Stone returning to the lineup for the Golden Knights to find the net seven times last game?
To be fair, the Vegas captain was the reason for Vancouver’s first two goals, but we’ll let it slide.
The Golden Knights put up a season-high in goals and did so against Thatcher Demko, the Freddy Krueger-like netminder that haunted Vegas’ dreams in the Edmonton bubble and almost pulled a seven-game upset out of thin air.
But Vegas got contributions in a myriad of ways on Saturday; two goals apiece for Jonathan Marchessault and Evgenii Dadonov, Jake Leschyshyn scored his first NHL goal, and even Brayden McNabb got a huge goal in the second period.
Despite giving up a two-spot in the first 5:56 of that game, the Golden Knights’ provided its best output of the season in a performance that’s desperately needed to happen over this stretch.
Martinez, Carrier out
The gash that Alec Martinez suffered against the Wild continues to be termed a “nasty” cut from DeBoer, and the defenseman will not play Tuesday against Carolina, meaning Ben Hutton will play his second game with Vegas.
DeBoer said Martinez will see some specialists to see the severity of that gash and hopes it’s not a long-term thing.
Martinez being the consummate professional and all-around tough guy — or warrior if you really want to annoy him — would probably slap on a cage and go out there tonight if he wanted to. But for now, it’s the latest in the long line of big names that has been out for the Golden Knights this season (twice times over for Martinez). Hutton played less than 10 minutes and was involved in his first fight on Saturday.
William Carrier has entered COVID protocol and will not play. The forward, who has filled in admirably on the top six through this run, did not play the previous two games to what was originally listed as an undisclosed injury. Stone’s return certainly helps, and Dadonov taking his place on the left makes the second line a dangerous threat to score.
The Jerks are really good
This goes without saying but if you’re a hockey fan, you’ll enjoy watching the road team tonight.
The Hurricanes appear ready to take that next leap after coming up short the past three seasons, but every leaked hole from the past three seasons appears to be filled.
It’s an older team filled with star players up front, outstanding players at the backend and for the first time in forever, reliable unquestionable goaltending. If there was a 15-game mark for award winners, Frederik Andersen might be the Vezina Trophy frontunner. The former Toronto goalie won his first eight starts of the season and allowed one goal or fewer in five of those starts.
Getting that run of goaltending for the likes of Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Tuevo Teravainen (while young guys like Martin Necas and Seth Jarvis continue to growi) is going to make the Hurricanes a very difficult team come playoff time.
Andersen is 4-2-0 all-time against the Golden Knights with a 2.63 GAA.
Jonathan Marchessault — Nicolas Roy — Reilly Smith
Evgenii Dadonov — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Mattias Janmark — Jake Leschyshyn — Keegan Kolesar
Michael Amadio — Brett Howden — Jonas Rondbjerg
Nicolas Hague — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Ben Hutton — Dylan Coghlan
Where to watch
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM