The Vegas Golden Knights (41-29-5) are coming off a dominant 6-1 win against the Calgary Flames and will look for similar results in today’s four-point game against the Edmonton Oilers (43-26-6).
The Golden Knights are 1-2-0 against the Oilers this season and are 7-6-1 in the all-time matchup.
Interestingly, the home team has not won a game in the 2021-22 season series. Vegas won the most recent meeting, shutting out the Oilers 4-0 back in February with goals from Brett Howden, William Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo and Reilly Smith.
The Oilers are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and 5-1-1 in April.
Edmonton is coming off a 4-0 shutout victory against Nashville in which Leon Draisaitl scored his seventh career hat trick. He has 54 goals and 105 points on the year, while Connor McDavid has 110; the two have a combined eight 100-point campaigns.
Vegas will have its hands full against a high-flying offense that also has gotten contributions from forwards like Zach Hyman (24-26—50), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (10-36—46) and Evander Kane, who has 16 goals and 30 points in 36 games since joining the club mid-season.
Hyman has three goals in three games against Vegas this year, while McDavid (17) and Draisaitl (16) lead both teams in scoring in the all-time series.
But while Edmonton’s offense is very top-heavy, the Oilers have four additional players (for a total of nine) who have topped the 10-goal mark this season, including Kailer Yamamoto (18), Jesse Puljujarvi (13), Warren Foegele (11) and Evan Bouchard (10), who leads the Oilers’ blue line with 38 points.
The Golden Knights, however, have 11.
Jonathan Marchessault leads the way with 29 goals; the others are Evgenii Dadonov (19), Chandler Stephenson (17), Smith (16), Max Pacioretty (16), Nicolas Roy (14), Shea Theodore (13), Pietrangelo (13), Jack Eichel (12), Karlsson (11) and Michael Amadio (10).
Special teams comparison
Edmonton has the third-best power play in the NHL, operating at a whopping 26 percent this season.
Vegas continues to struggle on the man-advantage and ranks 24th on the year (17.7 percent). However, the Golden Knights’ power play has operated at 15.9 percent (26th) since March 1 and has converted at a disastrous rate of 5.9 percent this month (27th).
The two clubs have virtually identical penalty-kill success on the season, though the Oilers hold a slight advantage (78.3 percent) over Vegas (77.3 percent).
Since March 1, however, the Oilers rank ninth on the penalty kill (83.1 percent), while Vegas ranks 31st (69.2 percent).
Needless to say, the Oilers have the edge in special teams, and it’s something the Golden Knights will need to be cognizant of in today’s contest.
It would be very surprising if Pete DeBoer does not turn to Logan Thompson once again today after yet another impressive performance by the young netminder. Thompson stopped 35 of 36 shots in Thursday’s 6-1 win against the Flames, and he has won each of his last five starts. He is 8-4-0 with a 2.43 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 13 games (12 starts) this season.
Robin Lehner is 23-16-2 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .907 save percentage; in his last four starts, he has gone 2-1-1 with a 3.23 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.
The Oilers’ goaltending has been inconsistent this year but has been much better of late. Like Vegas, Edmonton has one goalie who has won five consecutive starts (Mike Smith) as well as one who has gone 2-1-1 in his last four (Mikko Koskinen).
Smith was in net when these teams squared off Feb. 8, but the Golden Knights scored four goals to spoil his first start in more than a month. However, he has given up just four total goals in his last four starts heading into today’s game.
Koskinen is 2-0-0 against the Golden Knights this season, surrendering a total of five goals on 77 shots for a .935 save percentage (2.50 goals-against average).
On the year, Smith is 12-9-2 with a 3.04 goals-against average and .907 save percentage, while Koskinen is 25-11-4 with a 3.09 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. Like all three of Vegas’ netminders, both Smith and Koskinen have one shutout apiece.
Though Koskinen was in net for each of Edmonton’s victories against the Golden Knights this season, it could very well be Smith given his recent play.
The Golden Knights’ 4-1-1 stretch this month has put them back in the driver’s seat in the playoff race, which is quite a turn of events given how things stood not too long ago.
There are seven games remaining in the Golden Knights’ regular season; with 87 points in 75 games, the Golden Knights control their own destiny moving forward and will make the playoffs if they win out.
That starts with today’s matchup against the Oilers, who currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division with 92 points. Edmonton trails the first-place Flames (99 points in 74 games) by seven points and sits four points ahead of the Kings (88 points in 76 games), who have lost four of six this month.
It’s Calgary’s division to lose at this point, but the other two seeds are in play.
Vegas trails Los Angeles by just one point and has a game in hand as well as the tiebreaker, giving the Golden Knights the edge down the stretch.
Nashville and Dallas occupy the wildcard seeds with 89 points and 42-27-5 records through 74 games, though the Predators own the tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins) 40-38. The Golden Knights sit two points back but have played an extra game.
No matter how you look at it, this is a must-win game at a critical moment in the season. The four-point swing could have significant playoff implications, and the matchup could serve as a litmus test for a healthier Vegas lineup late in the season.
Mattias Janmark — Eichel — Marchessault
Pacioretty — Stephenson — Mark Stone
Dadonov — Karlsson — Amadio
Jake Leschyshyn — Roy — Keegan Kolesar
Brayden McNabb — Theodore
Ben Hutton — Pietrangelo
Alec Martinez — Zach Whitecloud
Kane — McDavid — Puljujarvi
Hyman — Draisaitl — Yamamoto
Foegele — Nugent-Hopkins — Derek Ryan
Ryan McLeod — Zack Kassian
Darnell Nurse — Cody Ceci
Duncan Keith — Bouchard
Brett Kulak — Tyson Barrie
How to watch
Time: 4 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM