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Ducks at Golden Knights Preview: Anaheim comes calling again

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This will be the third meeting between these clubs this season.

Anaheim Ducks v Vegas Golden Knights
Derek Grant of the Anaheim Ducks passes under pressure from Alec Martinez of the Vegas Golden Knights
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights will finish up their home games against the Anaheim Ducks for the season starting tonight. Vegas is 2-0-0 against the Ducks so far this year after opening the season against them.

Vegas still reigns supreme over the Western division, having gone 2-0-0 against the Kings in the last two games. The Knights’ .833 point percentage is top of the league (tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning). The Golden Knights have the tiebreaker over Tampa, however, based on goal differential.

The Ducks have gone 5-4-2 since facing the Golden Knights. They are currently fourth in the Western division with 13 points in the standings, but their .500 point percentage is down with the other California-based teams (the Los Angeles Kings have .364 and the San Jose Sharks have .450).

Anaheim is being heavily supported by goaltending so far this season. John Gibson has a .918 save percentage in 11 games, including two shutouts (tied for the league lead), and Ryan Miller has a .916 in three games as the backup. Both are top-20 in the league.

Max Comtois leads the team with five goals and six points, three of those goals coming against Vegas and the other two coming in the Ducks’ first game against the Sharks. Besides Carter Rowney (six assists), no other Duck has more than five points so far this season.

In fact, the Ducks are dead last in goals scored per game with 1.85. They also happen to be seventh in goals against per game with 2.54. That’s the story of their season, with their defensemen and goaltenders having to do the vast share of work in order to win. The Ducks have not won a game when their opponent has scored more than one goal.

The Ducks remain a very young team. Comtois is 22 years old. Anaheim also has Sam Steel, Jacob Larsson, Troy Terry, Max Jones, Isac Lundestrom and Sonny Milano, all under the age of 24. The Ducks could also see prospects like Jamie Drysdale, Kodie Curran, and Trevor Zegras make their NHL debuts at some point this season (all are currently with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL).

The Golden Knights will have to continue to put on offensive displays against the Ducks, as defensive contests so far have gone Anaheim’s way.

Three things to watch for

  • The Golden Knights had trouble guarding the crease in the two games against Anaheim to start the season. While that could be blamed on missing the preseason — the Golden Knights gave up two high-danger goals in the first game, something they’ve only done two other times in their nine games — it’s also something they need to improve on. Comtois scored his three goals against Vegas from the doorstep, and the Golden Knights’ defensemen need to be better in that department.
  • The Golden Knights’ power play has improved as the season has progressed, but it’s still not where it needs to be. The 15.6 percent conversion rate is just 21st in the league. The Ducks will be a tough matchup for the struggling unit, as Anaheim is currently ranked fifth among all teams, having killed off 86.1 percent of its penalties. Vegas has a power-play goal in three straight games; if the Knights are able to extend that streak, it could be a sign that the stormy skies are clearing.
  • Gibson is 16th in save percentage this season. Marc-Andre Fleury is second. Between the two, Fleury is the likely favorite, all things considered. But there could be a goaltender standoff in this game. Assuming he gets the nod, watch for Fleury to continue his excellent season.

How to watch

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL Network

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM