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Preview: Golden Knights look to bounce back against red-hot Devils

The Golden Knights seek win No. 30 on the season.

New Jersey Devils v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights (29-17-2) are back in action this afternoon (4:30 pm PT) to take on the New Jersey Devils (30-12-4) following Sunday’s 4-1 loss in Arizona.

One night after a dominant performance against Washington, the Golden Knights reverted to bad habits and failed to come away with a critical two points against a beatable opponent.

Vegas failed to take advantage of chances and had particularly poor coverage in the slot, which led to three goals against. The power play went 1-for-4, and the Golden Knights gave up the first goal for the 10th time in the last 12 games.

Needless to say, the Golden Knights will look to rebound tonight in the final three games leading up to the All-Star break.

But they will have to contend with a Devils team that has won six of its last seven games, going 6-0-1 in that stretch. New Jersey is second in the Metropolitan Division and has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2022-23 campaign.

Jack Hughes is having a season worthy of a former No. 1 overall pick; he leads the team in scoring with 30 goals and 58 points in 46 games. Former Golden Knights forwards Erik Haula and Tomas Tatar are projected to skate on the second line with Hughes tonight. Haula has four goals and 21 points in 46 games this season, while Tatar has 10 goals and 27 points.

In addition to Hughes, New Jersey has three players who have already topped 40 points this season: Jesper Bratt (46), Nico Hischier (45) and Dougie Hamilton (40).

But New Jersey’s offense as a whole has been strong all year. It currently ranks sixth in the NHL with an average of 3.48 goals per game (Vegas has dropped to 14th with 3.19).

New Jersey also has played extremely well on the defensive side of things, averaging just 2.61 goals against per game, good for third overall (Vegas is 12th with 2.88). The team’s success is due in part to a surprisingly fantastic start for goaltender Vitek Vanecek. The former Capitals netminder is 19-5-2 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .916 save percentage with two shutouts. He is the likely starter for tonight’s contest.

The Devils are a top-10 team on the penalty kill with an 81.1 percent success rate (compared to Vegas’ 79.2 percent, good for 15th overall).

The club hasn’t been great on the power play despite how many offensive weapons at its disposal. New Jersey currently ranks 18th on the man-advantage with a 20.9 conversion rate; Vegas has the eighth-ranked power play at 24.6 percent, but the Golden Knights have scored just three power-play goals in 2023.

Vegas is 5-2-1 all-time against the Devils, splitting last year’s season series. This is the first of two meetings between these teams this season.

Brett Howden is set to return to the lineup tonight; Howden has not played since Nov. 23 and has three points in 21 games this season.


Projected lineups

Golden Knights

Chandler Stephenson — Jack Eichel — Michael Amadio
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Jonathan Marchessault
Jonas Rondbjerg — Brett Howden — Phil Kessel
Paul Cotter — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar

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

Logan Thompson
Adin Hill

Devils

Ondrej Palat — Nico Hischier — Jesper Bratt
Erik Haula — Jack Hughes — Tomas Tatar
Jesper Boqvist — Michael McLeod — Dawson Mercer
Miles Wood — Yegor Sharangovich — Nathan Bastian

Jonas Siegenthaler — Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves — Damon Severson
Kevin Bahl — Brendan Smith

Vitek Vanecek
MacKenzie Blackwood