What to watch for as the Golden Knights take on the Sharks
Can Vegas handle Erik Karlsson and first place San Jose?
The Vegas Golden Knights are set to play their fourth back-to-back of this young season, and they are starting to get on a bit of a roll.
They have won two games in a row for the first time in over a month, and have looked a lot more like themselves since getting embarrassed by the Calgary Flames, 7-2, last Monday night. They redeemed themselves last night with a 2-0 win in a rematch against the Flames, and are now set to take on the San Jose Sharks, who sit in first place atop the Pacific division. The Sharks also find themselves playing a back-to-back after defeating the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0, last night, and will start a five-game road trip tonight in Las Vegas. This will be the first time the Knights face the Sharks since beating them in six games in the Western Conference Semifinals last season.
Flower gets the nod again
It’s pretty rare nowadays for goaltenders to get starts on consecutive nights, but head coach Gerard Gallant confirmed this morning that Marc-Andre Fleury will be in nets again tonight against the Sharks. The move to start Fleury is intriguing, as backup Malcolm Subban had a night to forget when he last started against the Flames in the 7-2 loss, allowing all seven goals. While Subban actually played pretty well that game — all things considered — letting in seven goals can never be good for a goalie’s confidence. If you pair that with the call to put Fleury back in nets tonight, there’s a chance that Subban could take it as a loss in confidence in him from his coach to put the team in a position to win.
Nonetheless, Fleury’s great game last night is being rewarded with another start. Fleury’s stats are baffling to the naked eye, as he leads the league in shutouts with four, and is one win behind Frederik Andersen for the league lead with 11. His peripherals are a different story, as he’s 27th in save percentage with .907 and 12th in GAA with 2.45. He’ll look to improve those stats tonight.
Win and you’re in
If the Golden Knights can pull out a victory tonight, they’ll find themselves in a playoff spot for the first time in a long time. Considering the fact that they were in seventh place in the Pacific Division less than a week ago, this would be huge for Vegas. Thanks to their past two games against division opponents Calgary and Arizona, they have been able to leap frog their way up the standings. The Knights have looked like a whole different team in the last two games, and perhaps the blowout to Calgary was the wake up call they needed to get things back on track.
Watch out for No. 65 (and Vegas’ second line)
Erik Karlsson is starting to do Erik Karlsson things, and it’s looking real scary. He had a bit of a slow start to the year, getting used to a new role, team and conference. But Karlsson is starting to look like his former Norris Trophy winning self, and that is bad news for the rest of the NHL. He’s up to 15 points on the season, but eight of those points have come in the last five games. He had a one-goal, two-assist performance last night against Vancouver, and could be a headache for the Golden Knights’ defenders tonight.
It wouldn’t be fair to single out a player here since they’re all playing so well, so I’m just going to say watch out for the Golden Knights’ second line. Alex Tuch has looked like a man possessed the last two games, with a goal and two assists and numerous highlight reel plays. Max Pacioretty has four goals and one assist in his last four games. Cody Eakin has an assist in each of his past two games, and had a goal called back by a hairline offside call. This line is really starting to click and could also open up the ice for the first line if the Sharks decide to focus on them tonight.
How to Watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM