Gameday: Golden Knights travel to L.A. for should-win against Kings
Both teams have struggled. Is this the game that gets the boys in gold their groove back?
It’s not good, being not good. Both the Vegas Golden Knights (9-8-3) and Los Angeles Kings (7-11-1) know this all too well. The normally dominant Golden Knights shockingly find themselves in fifth place in the Pacific Division as they prepare for a weekend back-to-back, starting in So. Cal on Saturday afternoon. For the Kings, they’ve gotten used to the losing ways.
Heading into this matchup, both teams are on respective streaks, but you’d be surprised by both. The struggling Golden Knights are mired in a four-game skid after losing a home game to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night. To make matters worse, it was the first-ever win for the Blackhawks in this head-to-head matchup. It seems like nothing is going right for the Golden Knights and in channeling their inner Gordon Bombay, may need to “change it up” in order to reverse the trend.
On the other hand, the Kings have a huge win streak going - for their standards - of two games. It’s only the second time this season the Kings have won consecutive games, on the way to their first seven wins of the season. Reeling off home wins over the Minnesota Wild (3-1) and Detroit Red Wings (3-2, F/OT), the Kings will be looking to build on their success with a statement win over the sputtering Golden Knights.
What’s Going on In Net?
Despite a (very) down season last year, Jonathan Quick has historically been one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL. As of late, he has suffered multiple injuries and when healthy, his level of play does not resemble the player of old. WIth two Jennings trophies and a Conn Smythe on his resume, Quick has the talent and seems to be regaining it after two solid wins this week. His statline — 4-8-0 record, 3.80 GAA, and .876 save percentage — leave much to be desired, but with more work, the Kings may be able to get back the Quick of old. He has some leash because backup Jack Campbell hasn’t been as impressive as he was last season.
Marc-Andre Fleury continues to operate as the clear-cut number one in net for the Golden Knights. He has had a few underwhelming performances and Wednesday night against the Blackhawks is one of them. He is a passionate goaltender who loves to compete, making it very easy to tell when he is disappointed in his own play. The team defense in front of him hasn’t been great, but it’s always much better for him than it is for backups Malcolm Subban or Oscar Dansk, in Dansk’s one six-goal appearance. WIth a back-to-back, it’s currently unclear who will tend the Golden Knights goal. It should be safe to assume that Fleury gets the tougher opponent - Calgary at home - but Gerard Gallant has a penchant for being unpredictable with his goalies.
Names to Remember
With Alex Tuch and Nate Schmidt back and healthy, the Golden Knights will look for big performances from those two dynamic players. Both are big pieces of the team and the spotty results in their absences support that notion. Tuch has immediately made an impact upon his return, nearly scoring a goal on Wednesday evening while adding an assist. His size and speed turn a disappointing third line into a potential game-breaker.
Hopefully William Karlsson’s goal in their last game is enough to get the team’s top line going again. Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault have not been scoring as expected and while Reilly Smith has bailed them out early on, those two need to make more of an impact on the scoreboard. The Golden Knights are at their best when the top line is buzzing. They simply aren’t deep enough to support a prolonged drought in the top-six.
Unlike the Golden Knights, who have an eye on the playoffs and “winning now”, the Kings are finally embracing their rebuild. Veterans have been officially made aware of the situation and the aging Ilya Kovalchuk has been informed that he will be out of the lineup for an extended period of time, to evaluate their youth. While they have a few good pieces and clear talent in Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Jeff Carter the Kings are in last place for a reason.
This is a game the Golden Knights SHOULD win, but we all know how that goes. Panic will officially set in for Vegas, if the Kings are able to steal one and expand their winning streak to three games. A loss would give the Golden Knights a five-game losing streak which would tie a franchise-worst mark. Puck management, good breakouts, and better d-zone play are key for the Golden Knights. No team is an easy out, as the NHL has become a league of parity, but this is as close as it gets for the Golden Knights. With two SOLID NHL GOALTENDERS to choose from, they should not have a problem knocking off the lowly Kings on Saturday afternoon.
How to watch
Time: 1 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM