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Preview: Well-rested Golden Knights look to bounce back against Panthers

The Golden Knights are coming off a disappointing 5-1 loss to the Kings.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights have something to prove tonight when they host the Florida Panthers.

With four players back from injury (Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, Alec Martinez and Paul Cotter), four days off and two recent four-point losses to the Los Angeles Kings, the Golden Knights need to reset and reload quickly to get back on track with the second half of the season underway.

The Golden Knights have been out of action since Saturday’s disappointing and deflating 5-1 loss to Los Angeles.

The Golden Knights were overwhelmed by Los Angeles’ neutral zone coverage, recorded just 13 shots and zero high-danger chances through two periods and came just over two minutes away from being shut out for the first time this season.

The game also featured the second goalie change of the season, as Adin Hill replaced Logan Thompson at the start of the third.

The loss snapped Vegas’ three-game winning streak and put an end to the Golden Knights’ four-game home winning streak in which Vegas scored a total of 19 goals.

Following the game, Bruce Cassidy said it was “...probably the most disappointing game of the year for us when I look at our competitiveness from top to bottom.”

Vegas should be eager and ready to go tonight. There are no excuses for anything less than a hungry, hard-working and relentless effort.

Not only does Vegas need to rebound from such a flat performance, but the Golden Knights need to look forward to the upcoming playoff push in what is now a tight division battle in the Pacific.

In fact, the Kings are now even with Vegas with 56 points, though Los Angeles has three games in hand. Seattle has 52 points and has played two fewer games, so both teams are right on the doorstep of the first-place Golden Knights. The onus is on Vegas to earn points and pull ahead in the next few games, including tonight against the Panthers.

The Golden Knights are 5-2-1 all-time against Florida and split last year’s season series (1-1-0).

Florida is 4-6-0 in its last 10 games but is coming off a 5-4 win against the Avalanche

Since Dec. 15, the Golden Knights and Panthers have the fourth- and fifth-ranked power plays, respectively. Vegas is converting on 29.6 percent of its opportunities, while Florida has managed a 29 percent effectiveness rate.

However, the Golden Knights have only scored on the man-advantage in one out of their last five games.

For the season, Florida ranks 19th on the penalty kill with a 75.5 percent efficiency rate, while Vegas sits at 16th with a 78.9 percent kill.

In his first season in Sunrise, Matthew Tkachuk leads the Panthers in scoring with 22 goals, 29 assists and 51 points in 39 games. He enters tonight’s game with five goals and eight points on his current four-game point streak. Aleksander Barkov is operating at a point-per-game pace with 32 points in 32 games this year.

Defenseman Brandon Montour is having an impressive season and is second on the Panthers with 34 points in 40 games.

The Golden Knights have only made mid-game goalie changes twice this season; both have come in the last five games. The most recent was in Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Kings; Thompson gave up three goals on 19 shots and was replaced by Hill to start the third period. Previously, Hill was replaced after surrendering two soft goals on just five shots.

Vegas needs better goaltending tonight and moving forward, even if Florida has struggled in the crease.

Sergei Bobrovsky is 10-12-1 with a 3.29 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in 24 starts, while Spencer Knight is 9-7-3 with a 3.05 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in 18 starts. Both goalies have one shutout.

Though the two points available in tonight’s matchup are crucial for the home team to collect, the Golden Knights need to do so with a convincing 60-minute performance to make a statement and bounce back from Saturday’s inadequate effort.


Projected lineups

Golden Knights

Paul Cotter — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault
Michael Amadio — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Phil Kessel
William Carrier — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar

Nicolas Hague — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Kaedan Korczak
Alec Martinez — Ben Hutton

Logan Thompson
Adin Hill

Panthers

Anton Lundell — Aleksander Barkov — Sam Reinhart
Carter Verhaeghe — Sam Bennett — Matthew Tkachuk
Nick Cousins — Eric Staal — Eetu Luostarinen
Ryan Lomberg — Colin White— Givani Smith

Gustav Forsling — Aaron Ekblad
Marc Staal — Brandon Montour
Josh Mahura — Radko Gudas

Sergei Bobrovsky
Spencer Knight