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Preview: Golden Knights look to halt home losing skid with Coyotes in town

Vegas has lost three straight home games and six of its last seven.

Arizona Coyotes v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights will look for answers when they host the Arizona Coyotes tonight at T-Mobile Arena.

Vegas has lost six of its last seven games on home ice and is in desperate need of a course correction.

The Coyotes are 0-4-1 on the road this month and 6-12-3 this season, which bodes well for Vegas’ chances to right the ship.

This is the second of three meetings between these clubs; Vegas defeated Arizona 4-1 on home ice back on Nov. 17. It is the third game of Vegas’ four-game homestand, which has gotten off to a rough 0-2-0 start.

The Golden Knights have an all-time record of 17-7-0 against the Coyotes and went 2-1-0 in last year’s season series.

Vegas may be sitting atop the Western Conference standings with 45 points (22-11-1), but that lead is evaporating as the Golden Knights continue to lose ground by failing to collect points in Sin City. The Golden Knights have lost three straight at home, getting outscored 11-5. Vegas has scored just 11 goals in its last seven home games and has not managed more than two in a single contest.

The only home game the Golden Knights managed to win in that span came in overtime against Philadelphia.

The recent stretch has left Vegas with a home record of 8-9-0, which is the worst in the league among teams currently in playoff position. By contrast, Vegas has a league-best 14-2-1 record on the road.

The home-road conundrum is proving to be a persistent issue, one the Golden Knights need to solve quickly.

One thing that has been working of late is the power play.

Vegas has jumped to ninth in the NHL with a 25 percent efficacy rate, while Arizona ranks 23rd (19.6 percent). Arizona is 19th overall on the penalty kill (77 percent), holding a slight edge over Vegas (75 percent).

The Golden Knights have relied on power-play production in recent games. In fact, of the 11 goals scored over the last seven home games, five have come on the man-advantage.

Two of the remaining six were unassisted (both against the Flyers), and one came at the very end of a blowout loss to Vancouver. The other three goals not scored on the power play came from Phil Kessel at 12:50 of the second period against Seattle as well as from Chandler Stephenson and Reilly Smith, who both scored in the third period in Vegas’ most recent game, a 3-2 loss to Buffalo.

Vegas has scored 70 goals in 17 road contests but just 40 in 17 games at T-Mobile Arena.

The Golden Knights have injuries to key players, but at a certain point, the players need to go out and get the job done. There’s no logical reason for the massive discrepancy in location-based performance; it’s something that happens to teams in all sports, but it’s not something a team with high hopes of making a deep playoff run can allow to fester.

Vegas hasn’t struggled to generate chances in recent games, though. The Golden Knights have peppered 81 pucks at opposing goalies in the last two contests and have led by a combined 114-85 in shot attempts and 19-8 in high-danger chances at 5-on-5.

But generating chances is not the same as putting the puck in the net.

One individual who hasn’t been phased by that distinction is Smith, who has five goals in his last three games and seven points on his current four-game point streak.

He and Jonathan Marchessault have accounted for more than 50 percent of Vegas’ production in the last seven home games.

They will have to contend with Arizona, who is coming off back-to-back losses, including a 3-2 overtime loss to Montreal and a 5-2 loss to the Sabres.

Clayton Keller leads the team in scoring with 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists), while Lawson Crouse has a team-high 13 goals. Since making his season debut, Jakob Chychrun has been stellar, posting 13 points in 14 games; he has at least a point in eight out of his last nine games and has 10 points in that stretch.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is second on the team in points with 23, while 22-year-old forward Matias Maccelli rounds out the top-3 with 22 points in 28 contests. Gostisbehere is fourth among all NHL defenders with eight goals on the season.

Logan Thompson is expected to get the nod tonight for Vegas; he is 14-8-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .917 save percentage but has lost three of his last four games.

Karel Vejmelka likely will backstop the Coyotes squad. He is 9-8-4 with a 3.11 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. Like Thompson, he has two shutouts on the year.

In three career games against Vegas, Vejmelka is 0-3-0 with a 5.67 goals-against average and .845 save percentage.


Projected lineups*

Golden Knights

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

Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Daniil Miromanov
Nicolas Hague — Ben Hutton

Logan Thompson
Adin Hill

Coyotes

Clayton Keller — Travis Boyd — Nick Schmaltz
Matias Maccelli — Nick Bjugstad — Lawson Crouse
Nick Ritchie — Barrett Hayton — Christian Fischer
Juuso Valimaki — Jack McBain — Zack Kassian

Jakob Chychrun — Shayne Gostisbehere
J.J. Moser — Josh Brown
Patrik Nemeth — Troy Stecher

Karel Vejmelka
Connor Ingram

*Subject to change