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Golden Knights at Canucks Preview: Time to up the ante

The Golden Knights and Canucks will play three times in the next 10 days.

Vegas Golden Knights v Vancouver Canucks

The Vegas Golden Knights enter today’s game against the Vancouver Canucks riding a four-game winning streak during which they outscored their opponents 19-7.

Vancouver (32-28-9) and Vegas (38-28-4) have squared off only once this season but will do so three times in the next 10 days, with two of those three games taking place north of the border. The Golden Knights won the previous meeting by a final score of 7-4 on Nov. 13.

Vegas holds a 9-0-2 all-time record against Vancouver and has yet to lose to the Canucks in regulation in the regular season.

But all that matters tonight is coming away with two points. Vegas threw away too many winnable games and no longer has the luxury of coming up short; in fact, the Golden Knights could win out and still miss the playoffs.

Losing today’s game is not an option.

The Canucks have gone 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, though their last five games have come against Colorado, Minnesota, Dallas and St. Louis (twice). Vancouver went 2-4-2 in eight home games in March.

Prior to securing back-to-back wins in Seattle, Vegas lost seven straight road battles, getting outscored 30-11 in that span.

Needless to say, the Golden Knights need to build on their two road wins in Seattle.

Alec Martinez’s return seemingly had a stabilizing effect on the entire roster, and Jack Eichel is really starting to come into his own. Evgenii Dadonov has 11 points in his last eight games and has recorded multi-point efforts in four out of his last six; he did the same when these teams met earlier this season.

Standings update

The Golden Knights were bumped out of a playoff spot after Dallas defeated San Jose 5-4 last night; even with the recent wins, gaining ground in the Western Conference playoff race has been difficult for Vegas. The Stars hold a one-point lead over Vegas and have three games in hand. The Canucks are eight points behind Dallas, so it is do-or-die time for Vegas’ Pacific Division rival.

Trade deadline moves

  • The Canucks traded forward Tyler Motte to the New York Rangers in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Motte was a versatile bottom-six two-way forward set for unrestricted free agency.
  • The club elected to keep forwards J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser despite ongoing trade speculation; rumors involving Conor Garland, Jaroslav Halak and even Bo Horvat also circulated, but the primary buzz surrounded Miller and Boeser. Miller has one more year on an incredibly team-friendly contract carrying an AAV of $5.25 million, while Boeser will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
  • Vancouver moved defenseman Travis Hamonic to Ottawa for a third-round pick.
  • The Canucks acquired defenseman Travis Dermott from Toronto in exchange for a third-round pick.

Goaltending matchup

  • The Golden Knights are very familiar with Thatcher Demko from the second-round playoff series in the bubble, though he has just two career starts (0-1-0) against the Golden Knights in the regular season. He is 28-20-5 with a 2.68 goals-against average, .916 save percentage and one shutout on the year.
  • Jaroslav Halak is 3-7-2 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .894 save percentage. Though Demko likely will be between the pipes, Halak has never lost to the Golden Knights and has surrendered just nine goals while going 5-0-0.
  • For Vegas, it’s difficult to imagine Pete DeBoer won’t go with the hot hand in Logan Thompson, who has been in the crease for all games in Vegas’ current four-game winning streak. Thompson has gone 7-4-0 with a 2.56 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and one shutout this season but has won six of his last eight starts. The Golden Knights were shut out in the two losses (3-0 against Minnesota, 4-0 against Winnipeg).
  • Robin Lehner is 21-15-1 with a 2.78 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and one shutout; he is 3-3-0 all-time against Vancouver. He made 39 saves on 43 shots in the Nov. 13 meeting against the Canucks.

Special teams

  • The Canucks have an average power play (21.5 percent, good for 15th overall) but an abysmal penalty kill, which ranks 31st with a 72.4 percent efficacy rate. That number has shot up to 81.8 percent since March 1, however, while the Knights’ has fallen to 74.4 percent (24th overall).
  • The Golden Knights scored twice on the power play when these teams met earlier this season but finished the game 2-for-6.
  • During the four-game winning streak, Vegas has maintained a power-play success rate of 27.3 percent, well over the season average of 18.7 percent (good for 24th overall). The penalty kill has operated at 85.7 percent, also higher than the season average of 78.9 percent (17th overall).
  • In the last 10 games, Vegas has converted on 25.9 percent of its opportunities on the man-advantage, while Vancouver has scored on one out of every five (20 percent). The Canucks have been incredibly stingy on the penalty kill, clicking at 87.5 percent (second-best in the NHL) over the last 10 games; Vegas has killed off 76.2 percent of its penalties over the last 10.
  • The Golden Knights have given up just four power-play goals in the all-time series against Vancouver.

Also of note

  • The Golden Knights have averaged 3.13 goals per game this season, but that number has skyrocketed to 4.75 in the last four games; the goals-against average has fallen from 2.96 to 1.75.
  • The Golden Knights have struggled in the first period in many recent games, but that’s not something they can afford to do tonight. Vancouver has scored 43 goals in the first period, the second-fewest total in the NHL behind only Los Angeles. The Canucks have 71 and 76 goals in the second and third periods, respectively, so the Golden Knights need to take advantage early.
  • The Golden Knights are 20-4-2 when leading after the first period and 28-2-0 when leading after two. Though it hasn’t happened often, Vancouver also thrives when taking a lead into the first intermission, going 11-2-1; the Canucks are 21-1-2 when leading after two. Vegas is 5-15-0 when trailing after one and 5-19-2 when trailing after two, while the Canucks are 7-14-4 and 4-22-5, respectively.
  • At home, the Canucks are 10-2-2 when scoring first and 4-12-3 when giving up the first goal; on the road, Vegas is 14-5-0 when taking the first lead and 4-10-1 when giving it up.

Hot hand

  • Miller leads both teams in scoring with 81 points, 25 more than anyone on the Golden Knights (Jonathan Marchessault has a team-high 56). Miller also leads the Canucks in goals (28) and assists (53) as well as power-play points (33).
  • Defenseman Quinn Hughes is second on the team with 53 points in 65 games; 27 of his 53 points have come on the man-advantage.
  • Other top scorers include Elias Pettersson (22 goals and 27 assists for 49 points), Horvat (26-18—44) and Boeser (19-19—38).
  • Boeser and Horvat lead all Canucks in scoring against Vegas with nine and eight points, respectively. However, Boeser has five goals and a team-high nine points in just eight games (Horvat has 5-3—8 in 11).

Projected lineups

Vegas

Dadonov — Eichel — Chandler Stephenson
Marchessault — William Karlsson — Michael Amadio
Jonas Rondbjerg — Nicolas Roy — Mattias Janmark
Pavel Dorofeyev — Jake Leschyshyn

Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Ben Hutton — Alex Pietrangelo
Martinez — Zach Whitecloud
Dylan Coghlan

Thompson
Lehner

Vancouver

Tanner Pearson — Miller — Garland
Pettersson — Horvat — Boeser
Vasily Podkolzin — Juho Lammikko — Alex Chiasson
Nic Petan — Jason Dickinson — William Lockwood

Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Tyler Myers
Hughes — Luke Schenn
Dermott — Tucker Poolman

Demko
Halak


How to watch

Time: 4 p.m.

TV: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM