Gameday: Golden Knights clash with resurgent Predators
Vegas desperately needs a win. Can it find one against a team who’s won their last two?
The Vegas Golden Knights are struggling. They’ve lost their last three straight games, including recent 4-2 defeats by both the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars. The Golden Knights really need a win, so luckily they’ll face a Nashville Predators team at the bottom of the standings. Unfortunately, they might be encountering that Nashville team at the exact wrong moment. The Predators have won their last two straight games.
Vegas is having a team effort to lose these games, as although Shea Theodore has a current two-game scoring streak, nobody has really stood above the crowd in this three-game stretch. That will likely need to change, and the good news is that Gerard Gallant has reunited lines with more chemistry in the original units.
The Predators have only had to defeat one opponent to get to their current two-game winning streak, taking both games in a home-and-home against the St. Louis Blues. While the Blues are defending Stanley Cup Champions, they are, well, not that team this season. The Predators aren’t the contender they were supposed to be either, as both of their goaltenders, Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros, are both under .900 in terms of save percentage so far this season.
Vegas desperately needs a rebound, and it would make sense for the Predators to provide it. But the Golden Knights have had multiple games they were supposed to win and then they didn’t this season. Here are the things to watch as Vegas attempts to redeem themselves.
The special teams need to recover
The Golden Knights blew four power-play opportunities against the Stars. They also allowed a power-play goal against on the penalty kill. For at team who’s special teams units are both in the top 10 in the league, those are not great marks to have in one game.
Luckily, the Predators’ units are both near the bottom of the league. Their power play is converting at just a 18.1 percent pace and their penalty kill is 30th with just a 72 percent kill rate. This will be a game where the Golden Knights can both, if they play correctly, limit chances against on the penalty kill and get them on the power play.
As Vegas’s special team units have fallen over the course of November — the Golden Knights’ penalty kill was the best in the league not too long ago, and they’ve fallen to seventh — they desperately need to recover if they’re going to pull the Golden Knights back onto a regular pace. This might be the game to do that.
The Predators are 1-5-1 when allowing two or more expected goals against at even strength. They’ve done it just seven times, however, which shows how excellent the team has been both defensively and at the possession game so far this season.
However, that singular win came against... the Golden Knights. Vegas generated 2.42 expected goals for and allowed just 1.35 against back in October, but Rinne had a fantastic October and has had a horrible November. He stood on his head with a .943 save percentage on Oct. 15 and he hasn’t been above a .900 save percentage since, oh, Nov. 4.
If the Golden Knights are able to play that same game they did against a team that was much better a month ago, they likely won’t have Rinne standing on his head again (although Saros has played a much better November in his place) and they’ll be able to secure a win.
Need more from Mark Stone
Remember when Mark Stone was a Hart candidate back in October? Good times, right? Well, Stone has just three points — just one assist — in his last 11 games. That’s not a great pace for someone the Golden Knights gave up a lot for at last season’s deadline and will pay 9.5 million AAV until 2027.
Luckily, Stone has four points in his last four games against the Predators, including a goal back on Oct. 15. This is a team Stone has been traditionally good against, and if he’s going to return to form, following up a great primary assist against Dallas with at least one point against Nashville would be a great start.
Golden Knights projected lineup
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty — Paul Stastny — Mark Stone
Cody Glass — Cody Eakin — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Nicolas Hague — Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill — Nick Holden
Predators projected lineup
Filip Forsberg — Ryan Johansen — Calle Jarnkrok
Daniel Carr — Matt Duchene — Mikael Granlund
Rocco Grimaldi — Nick Bonino — Craig Smith
Austin Watson — Colton Sissons — Mathieu Olivier
Roman Josi — Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm — Dante Fabbro
Dan Hamhuis — Matt Irwin
How to watch
Time: 5 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM