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Golden Knights at Blues Preview: Vegas goes for series sweep after dominant win in game one

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Chandler Stephenson will return to the lineup after serving a three-game suspension.

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

Game one will be a tough act to follow, but the Vegas Golden Knights will have to bring their best when they take on the St. Louis Blues once again tonight at Enterprise Center.

Two very important points are up for grabs, and both teams need them.

The Knights are still four points out of first place in the West Division standings, though they have a game in hand over Colorado. However, the Avalanche have gone 13-0-2 in their last 15 games, outscoring opponents by nearly 40 goals. They are showing no signs of slowing down. Colorado is in action tonight, so securing a win in tonight’s contest will be key for the Knights if Vegas wants to keep up with, if not catch, the Avalanche.

St. Louis currently sits five points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand over Arizona (also on the schedule tonight).

For the Blues, tonight is a critical opportunity to snap a seven-game losing streak (0-6-1). St. Louis has gone without a win since falling to Vegas back on March 22, so the Blues will be determined to change the script tonight. That’s particularly true after losing 6-1 on Monday.

That may not have been a perfect game for Vegas, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a statement. The Knights took a 2-1 lead and turned it into a 6-1 lead with four goals in a jam-packed second period.

Fifteen different players recorded a point in the team-wide effort, and William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar and Alec Martinez all had multi-point nights. The only players who did not find the scoresheet were Cody Glass, Ryan Reaves and Shea Theodore.

Robin Lehner stopped 31 of 32 shots, including all eight on the penalty kill. He has been excellent since returning from a concussion, though either Vegas netminder could be the one leading his team out for warmups tonight.

At the other end, it’s reasonable to assume that Jordan Binnington will get the nod this time around, as Ville Husso gave up five goals before getting pulled the other night. Binnington stopped 12 of 13 shots in 30:53 in relief.

With under 20 games remaining in the regular season, four of which are against Colorado and Minnesota and the last of which are against St. Louis, the Knights need to strike while the iron is hot.

What to watch for

  • Tonight’s game marks the return of Chandler Stephenson, who has finished serving his three-game suspension for elbowing Los Angeles’ Tobias Bjornfot last week. With Stephenson back in the lineup and (presumably) back on the top line, Vegas will not only get its most dynamic and consistent line back in action, but it will do so with a much deeper lineup up front. Vegas has several options for the bottom nine. Glass was sent down to the taxi squad yesterday, per CapFriendly, though it’s unclear if that was a hockey decision, a paper or cap move or whether he’ll be back in the lineup tonight. Glass could move down to third-line center, which would bump either Tomas Nosek or Keegan Kolesar to the fourth line. It’s also possible that the Knights will send Glass back down to the AHL — where he was prior to the suspension — either for more “seasoning” or for cap reasons. For now, he has been assigned to the taxi squad (along with Nic Hague), so it’s likely that Nicolas Roy or Nosek will slot in at 3C. No matter what, though, the best option is to let Nosek keep doing what he’s been doing. The 28-year-old has goals in two straight, points in three straight, points in five out of his last six games and 10 points in his last 11 games. He is playing the best hockey of his career, and most variations of the Knights’ third line have been rolling. In 8:49 of 5-on-5 ice time the other night, Alex Tuch, Kolesar and Nosek managed a 66.67 percent Corsi, an 80 percent scoring chance share, an astounding 85.29 expected goal share as well as two high-danger chances for and zero against. Roy spent 2:30 on the line with Tuch and Kolesar, so it will be interesting to see what Pete DeBoer decides to do; Tuch, Kolesar and Nosek combined for four points in Monday’s tilt. As for Stephenson, he’ll look to add to his impressive sophomore campaign in the desert. He is one goal, one assist and two points shy of tying his career records across the board, and considering how well that top line was playing prior to the suspension, it’s only a matter of time for No. 20. Stephenson’s speed and versatility have been missed, and his two-way game could have given that top line a much-needed boost on Monday. Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Glass fell short in Corsi (five for, 10 against), were outshot, were heavily beaten in expected goal share (0.22 to 0.06, or 21.38 percent) and finished with a 16.67 percent scoring chance share (one scoring chance and five against in 9:46 of 5-on-5 ice time. Those numbers are staggering, but with Stephenson back in the mix, Stone and Pacioretty could pick up some of the slack in tonight’s rematch.
  • The Knights were able to score six goals at 5-on-5 on Monday. Clearly, it didn’t end up mattering in the blowout, but the Knights went 0-for-2 on the power play. To be fair, those power plays came after the Knights had already established a five-goal lead. That being said, Vegas managed just 0.15 expected goals and two shots in four minutes of action. One shot came from Glass in tight, the other from Martinez from beyond the circles. There may not have been a pressing need to score, but the power play has yet to be addressed by the coaching staff. The Knights have now gone scoreless in their last 16 power-play opportunities; the man advantage continues to be the key flaw in team performance.
  • Vegas had one of its better 60-minute efforts in the second game of the recent Minnesota series (or 59-minute effort, at least). The Wild stole the game in the blink of an eye, leaving the Knights with nothing to show for an otherwise well-played game. Monday night wasn’t perfect, but the results were there. The floodgates opened as the Golden Knights’ offense came pouring out. After scoring a combined total of five goals in three straight losses, the Knights came back with a bang and lit the lamp six times in the first 33 minutes of the game. That level of production isn’t a reasonable expectation or projection, but the Knights need to build on that confidence and take advantage of the Blues’ stumbles. Vegas was able to capitalize on scoring opportunities the other night, and the game marked the fourth straight meeting between these clubs where the Knights scored five or more goals. The Blues are now 4-9-4 on home ice. If the Knights are finding ways to score and defeat the former Stanley Cup champions, they need to step on the gas and never look back.

Statistics courtesy of NaturalStatTrick, NHL.com, hockeyviz.


How to watch

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: ATT&T SportsNet, ESPN+

Radio: Fox Sports 98.7 FM/1340 AM