3 things to watch for as the Golden Knights host the Islanders

The Knights return home from a four-game road trip to battle the Islanders.

What was otherwise a successful road trip for the Vegas Golden Knights ended on a sour note. Losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets 1-0 is just brutal, no matter how you slice it.

There’s no use in dwelling on the past, though. Today is a new day, and it’ll soon be Knight Time once again at T-Mobile Arena. This time, one of Vegas’ road opponents from last week will be paying a visit to Sin City.

It’s been just eight days since the Golden Knights picked up the franchise’s first-ever win against the Islanders, but the rematch is already upon us. The location may be different tonight, but the pieces are essentially the same.

The road team comes into tonight’s matchup riding a three-game winning streak, making tonight’s game a true test for an Islanders squad looking to improve its rank in the tight Eastern Conference standings. Meanwhile, the home team is hoping to get back on its feet after a disappointing 1-0 loss Tuesday night.

Here’s what to watch for as the Golden Knights host the Islanders.

Which Knights team shows up?

On their recent road trip, the Golden Knights suffered from a lack of consistency. This was noticeable from period to period and from game to game. One moment, Vegas looked slow, passes weren’t connecting and the defense was nowhere near where it needed to be. The next, the Knights had gained some speed, created chemistry out of thin air and the defense was on top of every shot on goal.

Goaltending was solid all around from both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban, especially against Columbus, but that’s about it. The team’s other inconsistencies were on full display in the Knights’ recent 3-2 win against the Islanders. Jonathan Marchessault scored on a power play just 34 seconds into the contest, but Vegas managed only 16 shots on goal for the rest of the game. Fortunately for Vegas, two of those shots translated into goals for William Karlsson and Tomas Nosek, but that type of performance may not suffice in the rematch. The Knights will need a full 60-minute effort if they want to set themselves up for success in tonight’s tilt.

Though we’ve seen that the Knights can go from sharp to sloppy almost in the blink of an eye, one thing working in Vegas’ favor in tonight’s matchup is that the Knights tend to hold things together in front of the home crowd. Vegas will look to improve its impressive home record of 10-3-1 as the Knights attempt to sweep the season series against the Islanders.

Pirri returns to the Fortress

As we learned yesterday, Max Pacioretty will be sidelined for at least a week due to an undisclosed injury. While this is disappointing news (and particularly untimely considering the second-line trio of Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch only had a few games to play together), it does present an opportunity for a familiar face to return to the fold.

That familiar face is Brandon Pirri, whom the Golden Knights recalled from the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday. Pirri played just two games with Vegas last year but potted three goals in his brief stint with the Knights. He currently leads the AHL in scoring with 41 points in 28 games.

Pirri was seen practicing alongside Stastny and Tuch in yesterday’s practice, which means it’s possible we will see him playing on the second line in tonight’s game. However, there’s still a chance he’ll serve as a healthy scratch, in which case Cody Eakin could end up back on the second line (as could Oscar Lindberg). That being said, Pirri does have seven points in seven career games against the Islanders, which bodes well for his chances tonight.

But whether he plays tonight or in the next few games, Pirri’s offensive instincts will be a welcomed addition to Vegas’ lineup.

Islanders working with fresh talent

Like the Golden Knights, the Islanders also will be without a player due to injury, as defenseman Thomas Hickey is now on IR after crashing into the boards in the Islanders’ game against the Avalanche earlier this week.

In place of Hickey, who played just over 20 minutes in the recent game against the Knights, the Islanders have called up prospect Devon Toews (no, he is not related to the other Toews you’re thinking of). It remains to be seen if the young defenseman will play tonight, however.

That said, the Islanders have gotten the opportunity to inject some fresh talent elsewhere. Forward Joshua Ho-Sang was brought up from the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Dec. 9 and has already made an impact.

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz praised the 22-year-old forward after he scored his first goal with the team Tuesday against the Arizona Coyotes. “Since he’s come up, he’s really playing the right way, and you can see that he’s got real good hockey sense,” Trotz told MSG Network’s Shannon Hogan. “He’s got the speed and the skill.”

It will be up to the Golden Knights to slow down the young blood and stop the Islanders’ recent momentum.

How to Watch

Time: 7 p.m. PT

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM