The Vegas Golden Knights have won five games in a row and remain undefeated since returning from the All-Star break in early February.
The latest victory was a statement 5-4 win against Tampa Bay by a Vegas squad that is playing well in all three zones and winning by committee. The Golden Knights had an impressive shutdown effort for the majority of the third period in Saturday’s contest, holding a one-goal lead against one of the more dynamic offenses in the NHL.
Adin Hill won his fourth straight start but “took a bump” and is considered day-to-day, according to Bruce Cassidy. That paves the way for Laurent Brossoit to make his season debut for Vegas tonight on the road; Michael Hutchinson was recalled and likely will serve as Brossoit’s backup.
Brossoit went 10-9-3 and maintained a 2.90 goals-against average and .895 save percentage in 21 starts (24 games) with Vegas last season. In 23 games with the Henderson Silver Knights in 2022-23, Brossoit is 8-11-3 with a 2.72 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and two shutouts.
He will go head-to-head against Petr Mrazek, who is 6-15-2 with a 3.95 goals-against average and .885 save percentage in 25 games this year. Mrazek has gone 1-4-1 in his last six games, giving up an average of 4.2 goals per game in that span.
This will be the final meeting between these teams this season; Vegas won both previous matchups, including a 1-0 shutout in the second game of the year as well as a 4-1 decision on Dec. 15. Vegas holds an 11-2-1 all-time record against Chicago, averaging 3.86 goals for and 2.50 goals against in the 14 regular-season contests.
Max Domi leads the Blackhawks in scoring with 42 points, with Patrick Kane sitting in second place with 14 goals and 41 points in a rare down year. Kane is expected to be moved by the trade deadline; Vegas is one team that has been linked to the three-time Stanley Cup champion, though Kane holds the cards given his no-move protection.
Chicago is 3-3-1 in February and 4-5-1 in its last 10 games. The Blackhawks are in the midst of a drastic rebuild and sit in eighth place in the Central Division with an 18-32-5 record and 41 points. Only Columbus and Anaheim have lower points percentages (.360). That being said, the Blackhawks are coming off a 5-2 win against Toronto and have won two in a row.
Even so, this is a game the Golden Knights have to win. Vegas has been surging of late and cannot afford a tough loss to a basement dweller at this point in the season, especially with Los Angeles, Seattle and Edmonton all within four points of Vegas for the top seed in the Pacific Division.
The Golden Knights have been focusing on all the little details and executing consistently, though the power play remains a concern. Vegas is 0-for-14 in February, 0-for-21 in its last eight games and has scored just three power-play goals in 2023. That’s a sharp decline after potting a franchise-best 14 power-play goals in December.
Ironically, the Golden Knights and Blackhawks have been the two worst power-play teams in 2023, both converting on just 8.3 percent of their opportunities. Vegas and Chicago also have fared similarly on the penalty kill over the last two months, ranking third and seventh at 85.7 percent and 83.6 percent efficiency, respectively.
But on the season, the Blackhawks rank 22nd with a 76.2 percent kill rate. Vegas has difficult matchups against Calgary, Dallas and Colorado to close out the month, so tonight could present a chance for the team to get over the dry spell on the man-advantage.
Paul Cotter — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Michael Amadio
William Carrier — Chandler Stephenson — Phil Kessel
Brett Howden — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
Philipp Kurashev — Max Domi — Patrick Kane
Tyler Johnson — Cole Guttman — Taylor Raddysh
Jason Dickinson — Sam Lafferty — Andreas Athanasiou
Boris Katchouk — Colin Blackwell — Brett Seney
Jake McCabe — Seth Jones
Connor Murphy — Jack Johnson
Isaak Phillips — Caleb Jones