Tonight’s contest is the first of two straight road games against the Sharks and will be the Knights’ second back-to-back set of the year. Vegas picked up a 3-1 win against San Jose back on Feb. 13. That was the game in which Vegas scored three power-play goals and went 3-for-5 on the man-advantage in the delayed season opener for the Sharks.
Vegas has won four games in a row, including both games against a Minnesota franchise that has given the Knights fits over the years. Two of those four wins came in overtime, but the Knights’ offense has really clicked in the last few games.
In the regular season, Vegas is 9-1-3 all-time against San Jose, and each team has won a playoff series (we’ll leave it at that).
This will be a busy month for Vegas, as there are 15 more games on the schedule in March, four of which are against the Sharks.
San Jose will be without Tomas Hertl for this one, as he remains on the COVID protocol list.
San Jose has had some high-scoring games of late, including a 7-6 loss to the Blues and a 6-2 win against the Avalanche in which the Sharks scored six straight goals in a comeback effort. The Sharks’ most recent game was a 4-0 loss to Colorado; San Jose is currently in seventh place in the division with 18 points (8-10-2).
But once the puck is dropped, the standings fade into the background and the rivalry rears its head. There are usually fireworks when these teams meet, so it should be another interesting battle.
What to watch for
- San Jose is tied for first in goals against per game this season (3.80). A concentration of those goals has come in the second and third periods; specifically, San Jose has a minus-15 goal differential in the second period and a minus-8 differential in the third (compared to plus-3 in the first). The team’s offensive production is relatively consistent among the three periods, but the trend fits nicely with Vegas’ play against Minnesota. After all, Vegas scored all five of its goals in game one after the second period, and three of them came in the second half of the third/in overtime. The offense in Wednesday’s win was more spread out, as the Knights scored a goal in all three frames; however, despite getting wildly (pun intended) outplayed in the third period, the Knights took advantage of their opportunities and potted three more goals to put the game away.
- The Sharks and Knights have somewhat comparable power-play numbers so far this season, though Vegas has a slight edge with a 20 percent success rate, good for 18th in the league, compared to San Jose’s 21st-ranked 17.5 percent. But there is a significant difference between the penalty kill units for these clubs, which could partially explain Vegas’ success in the February meeting. The Knights are tied for third in the league with an 88.2 percent kill rate, while the Sharks sit in 21st place (once again) with a 76.7 percent effectiveness rate. Assuming there will be penalties assessed — a fair assumption given the fondness these teams have for each other — Vegas should look to capitalize.
- Despite Vegas’ record and standing in the West division, there have been issues with the Knights’ play throughout the year. Marc-Andre Fleury has covered up countless mistakes with his outstanding play thus far. It’s unclear if he will get both starts in the back-to-back, but he gives the Knights a massive advantage in the matchup, as there’s no contest between these teams in the crease. Martin Jones is 7-6-1 with a 3.72 goals-against average and .884 save percentage, while Devan Dubnyk — who has started just six games — has slightly better numbers but is still 1-4-1 with a 3.46 goals-against average and .892 save percentage. Fleury, on the other hand, has been fantastic and is among the league leaders across the board; he is 11-3-0 with a 1.71 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. He has given up three or more goals in three out of his last six starts, with two of those games coming against the Avalanche, but has won four straight since.
- The Golden Knights came away with a lopsided 5-1 win against Minnesota on Wednesday; they controlled play in the first and second periods, but the Knights need a more complete effort across 60 minutes tonight. The Wild had a 67.74 percent Corsi in the third and held a 5-1 edge in high-danger changes at 5-on-5. The fact that the Knights scored three goals on eight shots and left Fleury to fend for the team leaves room for improvement; tonight would be a good time to start.
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Alex Tuch — Cody Glass — Keegan Kolesar
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Shea Theodore — Alex Pietrangelo
Alec Martinez — Zach Whitecloud
Nic Hague — Dylan Coghlan
Evander Kane — Logan Couture — Kevin Labanc
Rudolfs Balcers — Dylan Gambrell — Timo Meier
John Leonard — Patrick Marleau — Ryan Donato
Matt Nieto — Alexander True — Joachim Blichfeld
Mario Ferraro — Brent Burns
Nikolai Knyzhov — Erik Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic — Radim Simek
How to watch
Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV (free game)
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM