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Gameday: Golden Knights host Maple Leafs, look to avoid fifth straight home loss

It’s been nearly a month since the Vegas Golden Knights have won a game at T-Mobile Arena. Their last victory on home ice came on Jan. 19 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Having now dropped four straight, the Golden Knights will be tasked with fending off the high-octane Toronto Maple Leafs to prevent setting a franchise-record fifth straight loss at home. Despite their recent funk, they still hold a respectable 16-8-3 record at home overall. When the Golden Knights visited Toronto back in November, they lost 3-1.

All slumps must come to an end, right?

The Golden Knights aren’t playing their best hockey of the year at the moment. After their 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night, Gerard Gallant was probably the unhappiest he’s been at any point as the head coach of the Knights. He had this to say in the post-game press conference:

“It was a 2-2 game and all of a sudden we try to get cute again and start making drop passes and passes through the slot,” he said. “I didn’t like the way we played. There was no passion in our game. No aggressive forecheck. We played a soft game.”

In their last 10 games, the Golden Knights are 3-7-0. There’s no specific player or reason to point out for this slide other than the fact that they’re in a slump and not playing the style of hockey that they’re used to playing. The injury bug continues to live on, but that’s not an excuse. But, just like with all slumps in life, it has to come to an end, and hopefully soon.

The Maple Leafs are hot, hot, hot

As one of the league’s biggest powerhouses, the Maple Leafs were showing signs of weakness when they posted a 4-6-0 record in January. Since the calendar flipped to February they are 5-1-1. They have an incredible 18-7-2 record on the road, and haven’t lost to a Western Conference opponent yet this season. They’re coming off a dominant 5-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche when their power play finally came to life, going 3-for-6 in the game.

The Golden Knights will have their hands full facing off against the likes of Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner. As Nate Schmidt said before playing the Tampa Bay Lightning last week, the big key will be to stay out of the penalty box. The Maple Leafs have one of the league’s most dangerous power plays, and they’re clicking at 21.2 percent. In a game against teams with loads of talent like the Leafs, it’s absolutely vital to play a game with minimal errors.

Keep an eye on these two players

Andreas Johnsson: Despite playing just over 10 minutes a night, Johnsson has been a nightmare recently as Toronto’s third line winger. He has four goals, four assists and a plus-8 in his last five games, and is currently skating alongside Nazem Kadri and William Nylander. It’s scary to think that Toronto’s third line could legitimately be a number one line on some NHL teams.

Nate Schmidt: Schmidt has been an absolutely vital part to the Golden Knights since his season debut, and his 0.55 points per game average is by far the best of his career. He’s scored in two straight games and has two goals and one assist in his last three. Often a lot of what Schmidt brings to the team is in his intangibles, but if he can continue to pad his stats and add to the scoresheet the Knights won’t be in the losing column much longer.

How to watch

Time: 7 p.m. PT

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM