The Vegas Golden Knights enter the year of our lord 2020 at first place in the Pacific Division.
About a month ago, that didn’t seem plausible. The Golden Knights were as far down as sixth in the Pacific. There came a point when the San Jose Sharks jumped them.
But the Golden Knights have rebounded well, going 9-4-2 in December and 6-2-1 in their past nine. They’ve also held serve during this seven-game homestand, winning 4-1 against the Coyotes and 5-2 against the Ducks.
Now comes the fun stuff. The Golden Knights continue this homestand, while looking for their third win in a row, by welcoming the Philadelphia Flyers to town.
There are only two teams to have never lost at T-Mobile Arena — the Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings. Philadelphia has outscored Vegas 9-3 in the two times they’ve come to Sin City, and the Flyers will try to sweep the season series; the Flyers won 6-2 at Philadelphia on Oct. 21. That was also the last we’ve ever heard of Oscar Dansk at the NHL level.
Here’s what to watch for.
Pacioretty and Stone staying hot
The Golden Knights’ big-money guys are earning their keep.
Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone have been, in a word, great. The linemates have combined for 31 points in the past 11 games. Vegas is 7-3-1 in that span.
We detailed in length about how Pacioretty should have been an All-Star, but Stone also deserves recognition. Stone has tallied one point in all but one game in the past 11, along with six multi-point games. Same with Pacioretty, but despite one goal in seven games, he has six assists in that time.
Their chemistry continues to shine no matter who is at center. Chandler Stephenson has six points in 10 games as he continues to fill in admirably sandwiched between Stone and Pacioretty.
Jonathan Marchessault, noted goal scorer
If you include that hat trick against New Jersey on Dec. 3, Jonathan Marchessault had five goals during a 15-game stretch.
He appears to have woken up at the right time.
Marchessault has six goals in his past eight games after scoring twice in Tuesday’s win against the Ducks. Sure, they came on a penalty shot and an empty net, but seeing how the Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith line hasn’t scored many goals lately, any and all are good.
Marchessault quietly has 15 goals this season and is on pace to eclipse the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career, which would be a Vegas-high for him.
Secondary scoring is always fun. Getting it while Pacioretty and Stone are on their pace is even better.
Need to score to beat Philly
While this sounds redundant, hold please.
When the Flyers don’t score, they stumble. Philadelphia has scored only one goal four times in its past 12 games (6-6-0). The Flyers also fell behind 4-0 after the first period on Tuesday at the Kings. It’s very evident when they struggle to score.
The Golden Knights will benefit getting on the board early. They survived Tuesday despite taking a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Had that fluke goal by Korbinian Holzer led to an onslaught for Anaheim, who knows what would’ve happened?
Vegas needs to get going early in this game. It’s hitting the meat of this homestand with Philadelphia tonight and St. Louis on Saturday. Such a statement would benefit the Golden Knights.
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM