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Golden Knights at Blues Preview: Vegas looks to hold off the Blues, maintain division lead

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The Knights will have to contend without Marc-Andre Fleury.

Vegas Golden Knights v St Louis Blues Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights will look to shake off a two-game losing streak when they take on the St. Louis Blues tonight at Enterprise Center in the first half of a back-to-back set.

They will have to do so shorthanded, however.

That’s because Marc-Andre Fleury was placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol list yesterday. This doesn’t necessarily mean he tested positive for COVID-19, but the length of his absence from the team has yet to be determined.

That being said, it’s a major loss considering how crucial he has been to the Knights all year.

Fleury has started 13 of the last 14 games and has put the team on his back for most of the season. He is in the midst of a Vezina-worthy campaign with a 12-5-0 record as well as a 1.73 goals-against average and .938 save percentage, both of which are good for first overall in the league among goalies with at least five starts. He also leads the league in shutouts (4).

At the other end of the ice, Jordan Binnington will look to break in the new six-year, $36 million contract he signed yesterday. The timing is somewhat interesting for the 27-year-old, who has won one of his last six starts and has given up four or more goals in three of those games. He is 9-6-3 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .908 save percentage on the year and has not returned to his historic level of play that helped lead the Blues to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship back in 2019.

Binnington had a notably rough performance in last year’s postseason, where he went 0-5 with a 4.72 goals-against average and .851 save percentage.

However, he’s still 63-24-11 with a 2.38 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and eight shutouts in 102 regular-season contests. He could very well respond to the organization’s vote of confidence with a strong effort in net tonight.

Binnington is 3-0-1 against the Knights with a 3.15 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

Former Golden Knights forward David Perron leads the team in scoring with 28 points, with former Selke winner Ryan O’Reilly trailing by just two (26), though O’Reilly has collected 12 points in his last nine games. Brayden Schenn has a team-high 12 goals, and Perron leads the way with 11 power-play points.

Offseason acquisition Mike Hoffman gives St. Louis a much more threatening top-six group of forwards, though he hasn’t fully found his lethal scoring touch as he has just seven tallies on the year; he does, however, have five goals and eight points in seven career games against the Knights.

But perhaps the biggest surprise has been Jordan Kyrou, who came out of the gate on a roll with five goals in his first eight games. He currently ranks fourth in team scoring with eight goals and 20 points.

Tonight was supposed to be Alex Pietrangelo’s return to St. Louis, though he returned to Vegas for further evaluation after suffering an apparent wrist injury against the Sharks.

The Knights are coming off two straight losses against the Wild. Though Wednesday’s game was a 4-3 finish, the Knights were outplayed most of the night, and aside from two late goals from Dylan Coghlan — who netted his first career goal and first career hat trick — Vegas didn’t have much in the tank.

St. Louis has gone 3-0-2 in March but has dropped two consecutive games in overtime, so the Blues will be hungry to get back in the win column tonight as well.

This is the second meeting between these teams this season. Back in January, the Knights suffered a 5-4 shootout loss after overcoming two two-goal deficits to force extra time; Max Pacioretty scored a hat trick in the effort.

What to watch for

  • UPDATED: The key storyline in this one is goaltending. These games are often see-saw barn-burners, but Fleury has been the backbone of this team all year, and he will be missed greatly. Originally, it was expected that either Logan Thompson or Oscar Dansk would start, though it now appears as though the Knights will go with the tandem of Thompson and Dylan Ferguson. Thompson made his NHL debut Wednesday in Minnesota, stopping two shots in 8:15 of ice time. Thompson and Ferguson have a combined 17:29 of NHL experience. The Blues will look to take advantage of that inexperience, especially early, so the Knights will need one of their most committed defensive efforts of the season in order to compete.
  • Vegas’ power play has struggled throughout the year, though it is on a particularly cold stretch. In fact, the Knights have gone 0-for-13 on the man advantage over their last five games. However, the power play — which is currently ranked 24th (16.9 percent) in the NHL — will have a decent matchup tonight considering the Blues boast the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 73.6 percent effectiveness rate. The Blues have given up a power-play goal in each of their last three games, so it’s certainly an area Vegas could try to exploit.
  • The Blues have had a lot of trouble with the injury bug this year, so team depth has been key. Vladimir Tarasenko made his season debut last week, which gives the Blues’ lineup a lot more balance. But even with Tarasenko back, St. Louis is still without Jaden Schwartz, Robert Thomas, Colton Parayko, Ivan Barbashev, Tyler Bozak and others, with many of those injuries being long-term. That being said, noted Knights nemesis Oskar Sundqvist is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing several games. Sundqvist has been a thorn in Vegas’ side with five goals and eight points in eight career games against the Knights, and his return gives the Blues a very strong top nine. The Knights will have their hands full, so it’ll be especially important for Vegas to play a disciplined game, protect the puck and focus on making safe, high-percentage plays.
  • Tonight’s game is essentially a battle for the top seed in the West Division. The Knights will still have three games in hand, but Vegas only has a one-point edge in the actual standings. One thing working in Vegas’ favor is the fact that St. Louis is 4-6-2 on home ice this season compared to 10-2-2 on the road.

Poll

Assuming Fleury/Lehner are unavailable, who would you start tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Logan Thompson
    (32 votes)
  • 33%
    Oscar Dansk
    (18 votes)
  • 7%
    Chance
    (4 votes)
54 votes total Vote Now

Projected lineups

Golden Knights

Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Alex Tuch — Cody Glass — Nicolas Roy
Tomas Nosek— Keegan Kolesar — Ryan Reaves

Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Brayden McNabb — Coghlan
Nic Hague — Zach Whitecloud

Thompson
Ferguson

Blues

Kyrou — O’Reilly — Tarasenko
Hoffman — Schenn — Perron
Zach Sanford — Sundqvist — Sammy Blais
Kyle Clifford — Dakota Joshua — Mackenzie MacEachern

Torey Krug — Justin Faulk
Vince Dunn — Marco Scandella
Niko Mikkola — Robert Bortuzzo

Binnington
Ville Husso


How to watch

Time: 5 p.m.

TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL Network

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM