The Vegas Golden Knights (13-3-0) will look to start a new winning streak tonight as they welcome the San Jose Sharks (5-9-3) to T-Mobile Arena for the first time this season.
The Golden Knights defeated the Sharks 4-2 in late October. It was Phil Kessel’s big night, as he broke the NHL’s ironman streak and scored the 400th goal of his career.
It was the 19th time the Golden Knights have come out on top in a regular-season matchup against the Sharks. Vegas holds a 19-1-4 all-time record, having lost in regulation just once.
November hadn’t been kind to the Sharks, who lost the first four games of the month. The Sharks did something with which Vegas is all-too-familiar when they suffered three consecutive shootout losses, twice against Anaheim and once against Florida. They lost their fifth straight contest against St. Louis but are coming off back-to-back wins, including a come-from-behind 3-2 shootout victory against Minnesota.
This season has marked the resurgence of Erik Karlsson, who has returned to form with 22 points in 17 games, leading all NHL defensemen and sitting in the top-10 in the scoring race. He leads the Sharks in goals (10), assists (12) and points (22) as well as in power-play points (six) and game-winning goals (three).
Timo Meier got off to a very slow start to the season but now has seven goals and 14 points through 17 games; he has taken a league-high 86 shots this season and is tied with Tomas Hertl (four goals, 14 points) for second on the team in scoring. Hertl, Logan Couture and Meier lead the Sharks in scoring in the all-time series against Vegas with 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Interestingly, Karlsson has just four assists in 14 games against the Golden Knights, though he has looked like a different player — the Erik Karlsson of old — this year. It is his first season in San Jose without Brent Burns, and it appears he has taken the No. 1 role and run away with it.
The Golden Knights enter tonight’s game following a disappointing 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues, a loss that snapped Vegas’ nine-game winning streak.
More than that, it was far from a complete effort by the Golden Knights, who had gone a perfect 5-0-0 on the road.
The Golden Knights lost the game in the second period; not only because the Blues scored two goals, including the game-winner, but because the Blues were completely dominant. Vegas bounced back with a stellar push in the third period, outshooting St. Louis 22-5, but Vegas was unable to get the equalizer.
The penalty kill was the best part of Vegas’ game, as it went a perfect 4-for-4 and also accounted for one of Vegas’ two goals in the game, a shorthanded marker by Reilly Smith.
Adin Hill suffered his first loss of the season and committed a brutal turnover that led to St. Louis’ second goal. Though he played for San Jose prior to this season and was in net in the October meeting, Bruce Cassidy has elected to turn back to Logan Thompson, who has won each of his last six starts. He is 1-0-1 in two career starts against the Sharks.
For the Sharks, James Reimer is 4-5-2 with a 2.88 goals-against average and .908 save percentage this season. He surrendered four goals on 31 shots when these teams met earlier this season, and he has an all-time record of 4-3-0 against Vegas.
The Sharks sit in 15th in the NHL with a power play operating at 18.8 percent, with Vegas converting on 23.9 percent of its chances. However, the penalty kill is where San Jose has thrived this season. In fact, the Sharks have the second-best penalty kill in the NHL, which has killed off 90.9 percent of opposing power plays. Only the first-place Boston Bruins have fared better when down a man (91.7 percent).
The Golden Knights did not have a power-play opportunity in Saturday’s loss and went 0-for-1 against San Jose earlier this season.
The Golden Knights will look to get back to a 60-minute effort against a familiar foe after dropping their second game on home ice in Year 6.