The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off a 5-3 win against the Florida Panthers, the club’s first win in six games after going 0-5-0 on a disastrous five-game road trip.
The Knights are set to host the Los Angeles Kings this afternoon before hitting the road once again for a back-to-back set against Minnesota and Winnipeg.
This game is pivotal.
The Knights’ season could hang in the balance.
Miraculously, the Knights remain in the second wildcard seed with 70 points despite going 4-8-0 in their last 12 games. That being said, they are running out of real estate, and any losses in the coming days could be devastating to the Knights’ chances of making the playoffs.
Also, the result of today’s game very well may influence how Kelly McCrimmon approaches Monday’s trade deadline.
This is especially true with Jack Eichel’s status up in the air. Eichel is expected to miss today’s game after suffering an upper-body injury when blocking a shot Thursday against Florida. The injury hasn’t been fully evaluated yet, though Pete DeBoer deemed it a “huge concern,” so early indications suggest that it could be a long-term ailment.
If that is the case, the Knights could be without Eichel, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Reilly Smith, Brayden McNabb, Alec Martinez, Nicolas Hague, Ben Hutton and Robin Lehner.
The list continues to grow as Vegas’ season continues to spiral.
The Knights will look to keep the momentum going against the Kings; Vegas has gone 1-1-1 against Los Angeles this season, which is in line with the Knights’ all-time record of 12-9-3.
The Kings secured a 4-3 overtime win the last time these teams met, with Adrian Kempe netting the game-winner for his second of the night.
The Kings have been one of the league’s biggest surprises this season, as offseason moves have paid off, giving Los Angeles legitimate depth up front.
But the Knights won’t be the only team missing key players, as Los Angeles’ injured reserve list has grown more and more crowded; the list features Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Roy, Andreas Athanasiou, Brendan Lemieux and Mikey Anderson.
This time last year, the Knights were forced to play with incomplete lineups due to salary cap constraints. Now, the Knights are having trouble icing an NHL lineup due to injury. The team had to sign defenseman Derrick Pouliot to a one-year deal ahead of Thursday’s game, and Vegas also signed goaltender prospect Isaiah Saville to an entry-level deal yesterday.
The Knights are missing four top-six forwards, two top-four defensemen and two other defensemen as well as their starting goaltender. That’s a lot.
Jake Leschyshyn could draw back into the lineup, but the Knights will be missing their most dynamic player. It’s another tough blow to a roster that has been decimated by injuries all season.
The Knights have struggled in 2022, and the odds of making the playoffs are growing steeper by the day.
Today is a must-win game.
Vegas remains the second wildcard seed in the Western Conference standings but is just one point ahead of Dallas; the Stars have four games in hand. There are four teams within five points of Vegas in the standings, and only one team (Anaheim) has played more games (64) than the Knights (63).
Today’s game is a four-point swing, as the Knights could pull within four points of Los Angeles with a win but would trail by a somewhat-insurmountable eight points with a loss.
Today’s game matters and is one of the biggest games of the year. If the Knights lose this contest, they could be digging themselves a hole too deep to overcome.
Given how well Logan Thompson played the other night against Florida, he seems the likely starter for this afternoon. However, it’s possible Pete DeBoer will go back to Laurent Brossoit.
Thompson is 2-2-0 with a 3.44 goals-against average and .897 save percentage but has delivered several impressive performances, including his 33-save win earlier this week.
Brossoit is 10-9-3 with a 2.90 goals-against average, .895 save percentage and one shutout. He has lost each of his last three starts and has won just once in his last seven.
Los Angeles could go with either goaltender as well. Cal Petersen started the Kings’ season opener against Vegas (the blowout win when Anze Kopitar recorded five points), but it has been Jonathan Quick in the two meetings since.
Petersen is 17-9-1 with a 2.60 goals-against average, .904 save percentage and three shutouts, while Quick is 16-12-7 and has a 2.70 goals-against average and .908 save percentage along with two shutouts.
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Evgenii Dadonov
William Carrier — Chandler Stephenson — Nicolas Roy
Mattias Janmark — Nolan Patrick — Michael Amadio
Leschyshyn — Brett Howden — Keegan Kolesar
Dylan Coghlan — Alex Pietrangelo
Shea Theodore — Zach Whitecloud
Pouliot — Miromanov
Alex Iafallo — Kopitar — Kempe
Trevor Moore — Phillip Danault — Arthur Kaliyev
Gabe Vilardi — Quinton Byfield — Rasmus Kupari
Carl Grundstrom — Blake Lizotte — Martin Frk
Olli Maatta — Jordan Spence
Alex Edler — Austin Strand
Jacob Morerare — Sean Durzi