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Kings at Golden Knights Preview: Vegas looks to hold on to top seed in West in second game against Los Angeles

The Vegas Golden Knights are 4-1-0 against the Los Angeles Kings so far this season. Vegas has a one-point advantage in the West Division over the Colorado Avalanche, though the Knights have a game in hand. They’ll look to build on that as they host the Kings for the second time this week.

Vegas came out on top in Monday’s 4-1 contest and will look to do the same tonight. These teams split a two-game series earlier this month, but that’s something the Knights will look to avoid.

Vegas’ only loss against Los Angeles this season came in the second game of a two-game set back on March 21. The 3-1 defeat was the one in which Pete DeBoer unsuccessfully challenged a goal by Sean Walker, which led to a Kings power play and ultimately their second goal of the first period and game-winning goal of the game.

Since then, the Golden Knights are 3-1-0, while the Kings are 0-3-0 after losing both games in a set against the San Jose Sharks prior to Monday’s game in Sin City. Vegas handily beat the St. Louis Blues, gave the Avalanche three points and then grabbed two against the Kings.

In the first game between these teams earlier this month (March 19), the Golden Knights got Robin Lehner back. Lehner had a .920 save percentage in that game before posting a .938 save percentage against the Blues. He was back in the crease Monday night after riding the bench for both games in Colorado; it was another solid performance for Lehner, who made 24 saves for a .960 save percentage to improve his season record against the Kings to 3-0-0. It’s unclear if he will get the nod once again, however, especially since tonight is the first half of a back-to-back with the menacing Minnesota Wild in town tomorrow.

Marc-Andre Fleury played both games in Denver but managed an .844 save percentage and a .917 save percentage in the two games.

After Jonathan Quick manned the crease Monday, it’s likely that the Kings will start Calvin Petersen. Petersen had an .857 save percentage in his most recent start but was dominant against the Knights in his most recent game against Vegas, making 41 saves for a .976 save percentage and the win. Petersen has been stellar against Vegas for several years; he has a .941 career save percentage against Vegas to go along with a 3-1-0 record.

In the four games against LA this season, the Golden Knights have a 52.07 percent shot share at 5-on-5 and a 55.5 percent expected goal share. Vegas has scored three power-play goals and allowed two against on the penalty kill.

The Golden Knights have gotten points from 15 players against the Kings so far this season. Max Pacioretty has done the most, with six points in four games. Five players — Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Nicolas Hague — have at least five points, while Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez have four.

The Kings are led by Anze Kopitar,  who has five points in five games against Vegas. Three players — Dustin Brown, Alex Iafallo and Trevor Moore — have three points.

What to watch for

  • In three out of five games against the Kings, the Knights have controlled the quantity of shots and shot attempts at 5-on-5. In all but the second game (a 4-3 win), the Knights have controlled quality of chances, winning the expected goals battle at 5-on-5. Vegas has clearly’ been the better team at full strength, and that has resulted in a 15-9 goal differential. Vegas has generated 53 high-danger chances for and 39 against. The Golden Knights need to continue to generate the pressure they’ve put up against the Kings to win these games. Monday was a very slight anomaly, as Los Angeles outshot Vegas 25-24 and held a tiny edge in Corsi (45-42 at 5-on-5). Especially if Petersen is in net tonight, though, Vegas will need to generate more across the board.
  • Surprisingly, the best line for Vegas — in terms of quality — against the Kings this season has been the fourth line of William Carrier, Tomas Nosek and Ryan Reaves. They have a 68.22 percent expected goal share against the Kings in 34:34. Part of the problem in Vegas’ only loss to the Kings may have been their absence — with Pacioretty out of that lineup for that matchup, the lines were mixed and shuffled throughout the game. After the first game, where the trio generated zero shots and faced 0.31 expected goals against, the fourth line allowed just 0.17 expected goals against in two games. They came close to replicating that the other night, allowing just 0.19 expected goals against while generating 0.64 expected goals. That line played a key role on Monday as the top two lines struggled mightily at 5-on-5, and Vegas very well may need its bottom six to come through once again tonight. It wasn’t just the fourth line on Monday, though; Vegas’ third line was all over the ice and noticeably clicking. The trio of Alex Tuch, Cody Glass and Keegan Kolesar had a 17-6 edge in Corsi in 9:25 at 5-on-5 and a ridiculous 99.92 percent expected goal share, though the fourth line’s wasn’t too shabby at 77.47 percent.
  • While it’s always a positive sign to see the bottom-six lines rolling, Vegas needs more from its top players. Having Pacioretty in the lineup this time around did not yield the results one would expect, especially since the top line has been Vegas’ best in terms of quantity. Prior to Monday night, the line of Chandler Stephenson, Stone and Pacioretty had a 62.22 percent shot share in three games (32:33) against the Kings. However, they did not generate a single shot at 5-on-5 the other night but gave up four, giving them a shot share of zero percent. That came on a night when Vegas’ top two lines managed Corsi For percentages of 25 and 33.33, respectively. Though the second line chipped in on the scoresheet, the Knights need results from the top-six forwards; it’s not much of a stretch since they’ve had great success against the Kings this year. Pacioretty has led the way, and the top line had been dominant against the Kings prior to Monday’s game. But Los Angeles is just six points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand over St. Louis and Arizona, the teams above them in the standings. That makes tonight’s game significant for both clubs, so Vegas will need its top scoring line back. /

How to watch

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Network

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM