What to watch for as the Golden Knights host the Islanders
Vegas has a chance to go into the All-Star break with 70 points and can tie the NHL mark for most wins by a team in its inaugural season.
At some point, the talk of making history might be tiresome for the Vegas Golden Knights. The perks of winning, let alone being first in the Western Conference, will do that. The Golden Knights host the New York Islanders on Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena with them knocking on the door of history’s home yet again, should they win game No. 33.
The Golden Knights can tie the NHL record for most wins set by a team in its inaugural season, tying them with the 1993-94 Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Keep in mind that’s how many games they won at the end of the season, while the Golden Knights are about to enter the All-Star break at game No. 48.
Vegas can also enter the break with 70 points should the Golden Knights extend their home point streak to 13 games. Barring the Tampa Bay Lightning’s result against the Philadelphia Flyers earlier in the day, the Golden Knights could head into the break as the top team in the NHL. Reminder that this is an expansion team and things are weird. The Golden Knights have not lost at home, in regulation, since Nov. 28 against the Dallas Stars.
And then there are the Islanders, who have lost three in a row and are two points out of the Eastern Conference wild card race. Of course New York has the exciting tandem of John Tavares and rookie sensation Mathew Barzal, but Anthony Beauvillier has four goals in his past two games and Jordan Eberle has nine points in his past seven games.
Oh, and the Islanders are the only team to defeat the Golden Knights when Vegas scores first (21-1-0). Other than that, here’s what to watch for.
Welcome back, Jason Garrison
The veteran defenseman is expected to play in his first game in a Golden Knights uniform since Oct. 13 as a result of the (hopefully minor) injury to Brayden McNabb. Garrison was called up from the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday. McNabb sustained an undisclosed injury in the second period of Vegas’ win over Columbus.
Garrison is expected to be paired with Nate Schmidt, with whom McNabb has been playing. McNabb has been solid all season as the slightly more defensive-minded blueliner of his pairing with Schmidt. However, if anyone can step in for McNabb and not miss a beat, it’s Garrison, who’s been a workhorse during his tenures with Florida, Vancouver, and Tampa Bay. Garrison averaged 18 minutes a night in 70 games last year with the Lightning.
Heading in different directions
Despite the firepower the Islanders have, including the aforementioned Tavares, Barzal, and Eberle, New York and Vegas have been trending toward the opposite ends of the puck possession charts. The two teams’ Corsi numbers almost look like a Rorschach inkblot test, with Vegas’ numbers pushing toward a season high over the past ten game while New York’s fall ever lower:
The Islanders remain a dangerous team, but Vegas has been a stellar possession team all season. The Golden Knights should prevail in this game if they keep up their recent play.
A touch of the Vegas Flu?
Much has been made this year of the home-ice advantage the Golden Knights have enjoyed, which has resulted in a 19-2-2 record at T-Mobile Arena. Long Island’s Newsday ran a piece yesterday claiming that there “may have been a run on Visine” in the Islanders’ locker room yesterday, a reference to the team’s partying the night before.
Though there’s likely some truth to the Vegas Flu, chances are good that the Isles will be ready for tonight’s game. They’re on the outside looking in to the Eastern Conference playoff picture and every point counts in the murderers’ row that is the Metropolitan Division.
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV, MSG+
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM