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Preview: Golden Knights finish up season series against Bruins without Shea Theodore

Theodore was injured in overtime in Friday’s 2-1 win against Philadelphia.

Boston Bruins v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights (20-8-1) will aim to finish their three-game homestand on a high note as they close out their season series against the Boston Bruins (21-4-1) tonight at T-Mobile Arena.

Vegas has an all-time record of 3-5-1 against Boston.

Tonight’s matchup pits two of the top three teams against each other for the second time in under a week. Vegas handed Boston its first home loss of the season with a 4-3 shootout victory on Monday.

The Golden Knights have split their two games since, losing 5-1 to the New York Rangers but pulling out a 2-1 overtime win against the Flyers on Friday.

The Bruins enter tonight’s game in new territory after having lost two of their last three games for the first time this season. That includes Monday’s game against Vegas as well as a 4-3 loss to Arizona in which Lawson Crouse scored the game-winning goal with less than 14 seconds remaining in the game.

Needless to say, the Bruins will be eager to get back in the win column.

The Golden Knights have struggled on home ice all year. Friday’s win against the Flyers moved them to 8-6-0 at T-Mobile Arena; by contrast, the Golden Knights are 12-2-1 on the road.

Though the Golden Knights came away victorious the other night, it was another flat effort in front of the home crowd, which continues to be an issue in Year 6. That won’t fly against the high-flying Bruins.

Unlike Monday’s game in Beantown, Vegas should have Jack Eichel in the lineup in tonight’s contest, but the Golden Knights will be without Shea Theodore.

Theodore sustained an injury in overtime against Philadelphia after a knee-on-knee collision with Travis Sanheim. He has been ruled out for tonight’s game as he continues to be evaluated. Should he be out long-term, Vegas would be down its two top defensemen since Alex Pietrangelo remains away from the team for personal reasons.

That’s a major problem for a Golden Knights team that has seen its defensive play slip as the season has progressed.

In October and November, the Golden Knights gave up 10.53 high-danger chances per 60, which was the sixth-lowest average in the league. In December, that number has risen to 12.82, which is the tenth-highest.

Also, exiting the zone continues to be an issue, and losing board battles only compounds the issue. Failed clears will be a costly factor tonight if Vegas gives a deadly Boston offense any extra chances.

Speaking of extra chances, staying out of the box — like Vegas did against Philadelphia — would go a long way against a red-hot Bruins power play, which currently ranks fourth in the league with a 28.7 percent efficacy rate.

The Golden Knights’ performance on the man-advantage in Friday’s game was disorganized, hesitant and ineffective. That won’t do them any favors tonight considering Boston’s penalty kill is the best in the NHL at 85.9 percent and is even better on the road (87.2 percent).

Vegas also can’t afford to sit back.

The Golden Knights blew a three-goal lead against Boston after blowing two-goal leads in Columbus and Pittsburgh. They managed to win two of those games in extra time, but it’s not a sustainable trend.


Projected lineups

Golden Knights

Paul Cotter — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Jonathan Marchessault
Michael Amadio — Jake Leschyshyn — Phil Kessel
William Carrier — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar

Alec Martinez — Nicolas Hague
Brayden McNabb — Zach Whitecloud
Ben Hutton — Daniil Miromanov

Logan Thompson
Adin Hill

Bruins

Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Jake DeBrusk
Pavel Zacha — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall — Charlie Coyle — Trent Frederic
Nick Foligno — Tomas Nosek — Craig Smith

Hampus Lindholm — Charlie McAvoy
Derek Forbort — Connor Clifton
Matt Grzelcyk — Brandon Carlo

Linus Ullmark
Jeremy Swayman