Notably, tonight will be a historic evening for Phil Kessel, who will tie Keith Yandle for the most consecutive games played in NHL history.
Kessel, set to appear in his 989th straight game, played six seasons with Toronto and has not missed a game since his debut with the Maple Leafs back on Nov. 3, 2009. He recorded 181 goals and 394 points in 446 games with Toronto.
Kessel is sitting at 399 career goals and has 957 points in 1211 games. He has just one assist through six games with the Golden Knights, who will look to bounce back after a disappointing 3-2 loss to Colorado.
Vegas has yet to put together a complete 60-minute effort but will need to do so tonight against Toronto. That’s especially true since the Golden Knights have not fared well against the Maple Leafs historically, going 2-3-3 in the all-time series.
Toronto, like Vegas, is 4-2-0 on the season. The Maple Leafs have won consecutive games and are shooting for their fifth win in six games tonight in Las Vegas.
Ilya Samsonov will guard the cage for the Maple Leafs; Logan Thompson is expected to get the nod for Vegas.
In his first year with the Maple Leafs, Samsonov is undefeated in four starts and has posted a 1.73 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. He has not given up more than two goals in any game this year.
Samsonov surrendered four goals on 30 shots in his only start against Vegas, a 4-3 overtime victory for the Golden Knights against Washington this past April.
Thompson has lost two straight starts but has played very well this year, going 2-2-0 with a 2.29 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and one shutout.
Jack Eichel and John Tavares lead their respective teams in scoring with seven points (both have three goals and four assists through six games).
It has been a slow start in the goal-scoring department for Auston Matthews, who has just one goal after potting 60 last season. That being said, he has been electric against Vegas over the years, scoring eight goals and 10 points in seven games.
Mitch Marner is second in scoring in the all-time series against Vegas with three goals and eight points in six games. William Karlsson has five goals and seven points in seven games and is the only member of the Golden Knights with multiple goals in the all-time matchup.
Toronto has averaged 3.00 goals per game this year, good for 21st in the NHL; Vegas has managed 3.17, which ranks 16th.
Both teams have been stingy defensively. Vegas is third overall in the NHL with just 2.17 goals against per game, while Toronto ranks ninth with 2.50.
Toronto has a clear edge in special teams play thus far, though.
The Toronto power play has clicked at 24 percent rate, while Vegas’ sits at 17.4 percent. But the true difference lies in the teams’ penalty kills. Toronto ranks 13th with an 82.6 percent efficacy rate, while the Golden Knights have dropped all the way to 27th, killing off just 68.8 percent of opposing teams’ power plays.
The Golden Knights held Los Angeles, Chicago and Winnipeg without a power-play goal but went 1-for-2 against Seattle, 4-for-6 against Calgary and 0-for-2 against the Avalanche.
Discipline will be a key factor in tonight’s game once again; if Vegas does end up in the sin bin, the Golden Knights will need a much better defensive showing in order to contain Toronto’s high-powered offense. But the best way to kill penalties is to not take them.
Bruce Cassidy shuffled his lines in the third period of Saturday’s game against the Avalanche, which sparked an immediate goal and an impressive comeback effort that ran out of time.
Cassidy moved Chandler Stephenson to the top line, bumped Kessel to the third line and reunited the Golden Misfits. The changes were effective and likely will remain intact at the start of tonight’s contest. But look for Kessel to be one of the starters for tonight’s memorable milestone.
Kessel has nine goals and 15 points in 34 career contests against the Maple Leafs.
He is set to break the ironman streak tomorrow night in San Jose.
These teams will meet again Nov. 8 in Toronto.