The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off a 3-0 shutout loss to the Colorado Avalanche after going 6-0-2 through the first eight games of February. The loss snapped the team’s nine-game point streak and also marked just the second time this season that Vegas was held without a goal.
Tonight won’t be any easier, as the Golden Knights are set to host the Carolina Hurricanes, who are 14-2-1 in their last 17 games and sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division and second place in the entire NHL with 86 points and a .741 points percentage.
Carolina has three players with 50-plus points: Sebastian Aho and Martin Necas are tied for the team lead with 52 (though Aho has played seven fewer games), and Andrei Svechnikov rounds out the top-3 with 51. Brent Burns is fourth on the team with 44 points in a bounceback season for the former Sharks defenseman.
The club acquired forward Jesse Puljujarvi from the Edmonton Oilers yesterday, though he is experiencing visa issues and is not expected to be in the lineup tonight.
The Hurricanes rank ninth in the NHL with 3.36 goals per game and second in goals against with an average of just 2.57 per game, trailing only Boston (2.08). Carolina has been getting it done without an elite power play, however, as the Canes’ man-advantage ranks 23rd with a success rate of 19.4 percent.
The Golden Knights are in a massive slump on the power play after going 1-for-20 in February. But the Hurricanes surrender only 2.57 goals per game thanks in part to a strong penalty kill, which is operating at 82.7 percent on the year, good for fifth overall.
Carolina is third in shots per game (35.2) and allows the fewest shots against per game (26.4).
The Golden Knights will be going up against a strong defensive club capable of controlling possession and suppressing shots, so capitalizing on chances will be key. This is especially true against Frederik Andersen, who is 5-2-0 all-time against Vegas and is 14-5-0 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .905 save percentage this season.
Antti Raanta’s numbers are even better, as the 33-year-old is 15-2-3 with a 2.32 goals-against average, .908 save percentage and three shutouts. However, he has started just five games since Andersen returned from an injury on Jan. 12.
The Golden Knights have gotten strong goaltending of their own for most of the season. Adin Hill should get the nod tonight with Laurent Brossoit out for at least two more games after being put on injured reserve.
Hill was very effective against Colorado after gifting the Avalanche an early lead just 14 seconds into the opening frame. He followed that up with 31 saves on 32 shots, many of which were grade-A chances for the surging Avs.
Tonight will be another difficult test for the Golden Knights.
Vegas holds a 3-2-3 all-time record against the Hurricanes and has yet to face them this season (the two teams will wrap up the season series in Carolina on March 11). The Golden Knights lost both meetings last year (0-1-1).
Tonight was supposed to be the first time the Golden Knights squared off against Max Pacioretty since the organization dealt him — along with Dylan Coghlan — to Carolina over the summer for salary cap relief. But the veteran winger, who spent parts of four seasons with the Golden Knights, was limited to just five games this year due to injury.
It has been a frustrating road for the 34-year-old, who scored 97 goals and 194 points in 224 games with Vegas. Pacioretty missed six months of action after tearing his Achilles tendon less than a month after being traded, played five games in January (scoring three goals in that span) and then tore the same Achilles tendon to end his season.
Coghlan has been in and out of the lineup and has three assists in 16 games.
Though Pacioretty will not be with the club tonight and Coghlan likely won’t be in the lineup, former Golden Knights center Paul Stastny will be. Stastny, who centers the fourth line, has seven goals and 18 points in 57 games.
Ivan Barbashev — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Michael Amadio
William Carrier — Chandler Stephenson — Phil Kessel
Paul Cotter — Brett Howden — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
Andrei Svechnikov — Sebastian Aho — Seth Jarvis
Teuvo Teravainen — Jesperi Kotkaniemi — Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook — Jordan Staal — Jesper Fast
Stefan Noesen — Paul Stastny — Derek Stepan
Jaccob Slavin — Brent Burns
Brady Skjei — Brett Pesce
Calvin de Haan — Jalen Chatfield