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Predators at Golden Knights Preview: Vegas looks to extend point streak with more consistent effort

The Knights face a tough test against a top team in the Western Conference.

Nashville Predators v Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off a disappointing 5-4 overtime loss to Winnipeg but will look to right the ship Tuesday night with the Nashville Predators in town.

Despite the loss — the Knights’ first in extra time since April 1 — Vegas was able to escape with a point thanks to two late goals by Mattias Janmark. But the Knights will need a more complete 60-minute effort in tonight’s challenging matchup.

The Predators (20-11-2) and Golden Knights (22-12-1) have had similar results thus far this season.

Nashville sits in second place in the Central Division with 42 points in 33 games, while the Knights are the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with 45 in 35. The teams are neck and neck in points percentage, with Vegas ranking 12th (.643) and Nashville coming in at No. 13 (.636).

The Predators have gone 1-1-1 in their last three games after winning seven straight; the Knights are 2-1-1 in their last four after winning five straight and eight of nine.

The Golden Knights’ team shooting percentage is 10.4 percent (good for seventh overall); Nashville’s is 10.2 percent (10th).

That doesn’t mean that these teams are particularly similar, however.

While the Predators have gotten more offense on a more consistent basis than in recent years, Nashville remains a defense-oriented team that relies on strong goaltending. Vegas, meanwhile, has been a top offensive team, averaging 3.54 goals per game (fourth in the NHL), but the Knights have not benefited from reliable goaltending in 2021-22. Being among the worst teams in high-danger Corsi against and high-danger goals against doesn’t help.

The lifetime matchup between the Knights and Predators has been relatively split, with Vegas winning six of 10 meetings, including one earlier this season.

The Knights were up 3-0, but Filip Forsberg made it interesting with two third-period tallies. In the end, it wasn’t enough; Robin Lehner made 26 saves and Vegas got points from Alex Pietrangelo, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty in the third period to seal the win.

Of those four players, however, the only one likely to be in tonight’s lineup is Pietrangelo. Stone and Lehner returned to practice yesterday but are considered doubtful for tonight’s game.

That means Laurent Brossoit could get his fifth straight start tonight. He is 8-3-1 with a 2.78 goals-against average and .900 save percentage this year. Nashville’s Juuse Saros is 16-9-1 with a 2.24 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and two shutouts.

Roman Josi leads the Predators in scoring with 30 points in 29 games. Six players have at least 20 points and five players have double-digit goal totals, with Forsberg leading the way with 15. The Knights have four players with 10-plus goals and seven with 20-plus points.

Both Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen were left exposed in the expansion draft, though this season has been a bounce-back campaign for both. That’s especially true for Duchene, who has 29 points in 29 games after managing 13 in 34 last season. He has four assists in his last two games and has found excellent chemistry on a line with Forsberg and Mikael Granlund. Johansen has 18 points in his last 14 games, including goals in four of his last six.

Tanner Jeannot helps Nashville ice three scoring lines; he has 10 points in his last 10 games and is tied with Detroit’s Lucas Raymond in goals among rookies (10).

The Predators are the sixth-best team on the power play with a 26 percent conversion rate; Vegas sits in the middle of the rankings at 16th with a 19.1 percent efficacy rate. On the penalty kill, the Knights are down to 25th with a 76.8 percent rate, while Nashville is 10th (81.8 percent).

Interestingly, of the 19 Predators players who have recorded at least one point against Vegas over the last five seasons, only eight remain with the team today: Josi, Forsberg, Duchene, Johansen, Granlund, Rocco Grimaldi, Colton Sissons and Mattias Ekholm.

The 11 who no longer skate for Smashville are Kevin Fiala, Nick Bonino, Viktor Arvidsson, Kyle Turris, Ryan Ellis, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Hartman, P.K. Subban, Craig Smith, Austin Watson and Pontus Aberg.

Another player who won’t be on the opposing bench is Cody Glass, who was swapped for Nolan Patrick in a three-team trade over the summer. Glass was sent down to Nashville’s AHL affiliate after playing four games with the big club; the former first-round pick has 21 points in 23 games with the Milwaukee Admirals this season.

The Predators have a lot of difference-makers in the lineup, but Josi has been the team’s most consistent threat and is having a Norris-caliber first half.

He is fourth in scoring among defensemen but is generating offense at a similar pace as some of the top forwards in the league; he ranks fifth overall with 215 attempted shots, trailing only Alex Ovechkin, Nikolaj Ehlers, David Pastrnak and Auston Matthews, according to MoneyPuck.

The Golden Knights will have their hands full.

Keys to the game

  • Stay sharp: The Predators scored on the first shot in all three periods the other night against Chicago, with Jeannot cashing in 28 and 53 seconds into the second and third periods, respectively. It took Forsberg 62 seconds to light the lamp in the opening frame. The Knights gave up goals 2:19, 2:39 and 2:28 into the second and third periods against the Jets the other day; the Jets scored twice in the span of 20 seconds in the second period and twice in just 1:48 in the third period as part of a stretch of four unanswered goals that erased the Knights’ lead. Vegas also gave up early goals in multiple games last month, surrendering at least five in the first two minutes of a period, including to Mika Zibanejad (0:17), Jack Hughes (1:41), Patrice Bergeron (0:21), Nick Bjugstad (0:09), Marcus Foligno (1:22), etc. It has been a common thread in many of Vegas’ losses this season, and it’s the kind of momentum shift that could decide the outcome of tonight’s game.
  • Three goals’ the charm: The Golden Knights are going to need to capitalize on opportunities and find a way to get through Nashville’s tight defense and goaltending. That won’t be easy, as the Predators are giving up an average of 2.67 goals against per game, which is the eighth-best rate in the NHL. Nashville also ranks second overall with just 8.62 high-danger Corsi against per 60 and fourth in high-danger goals against per 60 (1.14); by contrast, Vegas ranks 26th (12) and 27th (1.64). The Knights have won 21 of 26 games this season when scoring at least three goals; given the way things have gone for the Knights, they are going to need that goal support.
  • Go right ahead: Nashville is one of five teams that remains undefeated when leading after the first period (13-0-0), and the Predators have not lost in regulation when leading after two (14-0-1). The Knights are undefeated at 15-0-0 when leading after two; Vegas has been one of the better comeback teams, going 4-7-0 when trailing after one and 4-8-0 when trailing after two. On the flip side, the Predators are 2-9-0 when trailing after one and 2-8-0 when trailing after two. Clearly, playing with a lead has been a key to Nashville’s success this season. No lead is safe, and games can change in an instant, but it could prove to be a factor in deciding which team comes away with two points.

How to watch

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM