The Vegas Golden Knights (24-11-1) will be back in action following the holiday break tonight against the Los Angeles Kings (19-12-6) in the first half of a back-to-back set in California. Vegas will take on the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow.
These teams are first and second in the Pacific Division with 49 and 44 points, respectively; though it is still earlyl, this is an important four-point game for the Golden Knights in the Pacific race.
The Golden Knights have won two in a row and are coming off a dramatic and entertaining 5-4 shootout win against the St. Louis Blues.
The two wins followed consecutive losses on home ice, as the Golden Knights wrapped up their four-game homestand with a 2-2-0 record.
Tonight, the Golden Knights are back on the road, where Vegas has gone an incredible 14-2-1, which leads the league. Los Angeles is 10-5-2 at home.
This is the first meeting between these two clubs since the season opener, a 4-3 road win for Vegas. The Golden Knights and Kings will meet again at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 7 and April 6.
The Golden Knights hold a 14-9-3 all-time record against Los Angeles, including a 2-1-1 mark last season. Logan Thompson is 2-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .942 save percentage against the Kings; he is expected to start tonight, with Adin Hill likely taking over crease duties tomorrow.
Vegas has faced sustained many injuries over the last few weeks that have taken a toll on the team, but the last two wins give the Golden Knights a little momentum headed into tonight’s battle.
That being said, the Kings are 7-3-2 in December and have won four of their last five games. Los Angeles most recently suffered a 2-1 shootout loss to Arizona, which snapped a four-game winning streak.
For the first time in years, Anze Kopitar does not lead the team in scoring; instead, it is newcomer Kevin Fiala, acquired from Minnesota over the summer. The two skate together on the top line, but Fiala has a six-point lead with 10 goals and 35 points compared to Kopitar’s 10 goals and 29.
The third member of Los Angeles’ top line — Adrian Kempe — leads the team with 14 goals, while Gabe Vilardi trails with 13. However, Vilardi’s hot streak to start the season has since faded, and he has scored just one goal in his last 12 games and four in his last 21.
Interestingly, the Kings have 10 players with at least 19 points — Fiala (35), Kopitar (29), Philipp Danault (24), Viktor Arvidsson (24), Kempe (23), Vilardi (22), Sean Durzi (20), Drew Doughty (20), Arthur Kaliyev (19) and Trevor Moore (19) — so production has come from throughout the lineup.
The Kings have converted on 22.9 percent of their power-play opportunities, good for 16th overall in the NHL, though the penalty kill has been below-average (71.5 percent) and ranks 27th. Los Angeles is sixth in the NHL with 30 power-play goals on the season, though no team has had more opportunities on the man-advantage (131).
One way or another, the Kings have drawn a lot of penalties, so the Golden Knights need to maintain discipline against their division rival.
The Golden Knights have benefited greatly from the team’s recent surge in power-play production. In October and November, the Golden Knights scored a combined 14 goals, but the club has potted 13 this month alone, setting a franchise record for most power-play goals in a single month.
They may have to go up against a hot goaltender, as Pheonix Copley has gone 6-1-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .910 save percentage this month.
Jonathan Quick — 5-9-1 against Vegas all-time — has started just one of the last six games. He is 8-8-4 with a 3.41 goals-against average and .885 save percentage along with one shutout.
Michael Amadio — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Phil Kessel
Jonas Rondbjerg — Jake Leschyshyn — Pavel Dorofeyev
William Carrier — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar
Nicolas Hague — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Daniil Miromanov
Alec Martinez — Brayden Pachal
Kevin Fiala — Anze Kopitar — Adrian Kempe
Alex Iafallo — Philipp Danault — Trevor Moore
Viktor Arvidsson — Blake Lizotte — Gabe Vilardi
Brendan Lemieux — Rasmus Kupari — Jaret Anderson-Dolan
Mikey Anderson — Drew Doughty
Sean Durzi — Matt Roy
Sean Walker — Jordan Spence