Preview: Golden Knights and Stars clash in DeBoer’s return to Vegas

DeBoer was fired last May after Vegas missed the playoffs for the first time.

The Vegas Golden Knights will look to bounce back from a mistake-laden 4-2 loss to Edmonton when they host the Dallas Stars in an afternoon tilt on Monday.

It will be the first time Pete DeBoer returns to T-Mobile Arena since being fired last May.

He spent parts of three seasons behind the Vegas bench and posted an overall record of 98-50-12 as well as a 22-17 record in the postseason.

He went 15-5-2 in his first season, 40-14-2 in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season and 43-31-8 in 2021-22. DeBoer took the Golden Knights to the third round of the playoffs in his first two seasons, where Vegas lost in five games to Dallas in 2020 and in six games to Montreal in 2021.

However, DeBoer was behind the bench last year when the Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, which ultimately played a key role in his firing.

But today is about more than DeBoer’s return.

There are an important two points on the table in a tough test for a Golden Knights team that will be without William Carrier, whose upper-body injury suffered Saturday against Edmonton will keep him out of the lineup for at least today’s contest.

That’s a significant blow considering how crucial the fourth line has been in recent games, but good teams find ways to win, and the Golden Knights need to compensate for the holes in the lineup with strong two-way play.

Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Oilers was ugly despite the final score. Vegas remained in the game all night, but the Golden Knights committed countless mistakes and turnovers, gave up way too many odd-man rushes and sabotaged any momentum swings they were able to generate.

Rough start costs Golden Knights in 4-3 loss to Oilers

The Oilers scored two goals in the first two minutes of the game, and though the Golden Knights pulled within one goal several times, they were chasing the entire game and hung Logan Thompson out to dry.

Playing from behind has become more of an issue for Vegas lately. In fact, the Golden Knights have scored first in just one of five games this month and have done so in one of their last eight contests.

It’s a lot easier to play with the lead.

Vegas is 20-4-0 with an .833 win percentage when scoring first, which is second only to the first-place Bruins. The Golden Knights are 8-10-2 when giving up the first goal, which comes out to a win percentage of .400. While that still ranks ninth overall, it’s a steep drop from .833, and avoiding it could go a long way today.

That’s especially true considering Vegas has had inconsistent scoring at home, is missing several top players and is going up against a strong defensive team that is 19-6-2 (.704) when lighting the lamp first and 6-6-5 (.353) when giving up the first goal.

Scoring first shouldn’t and often does not determine the outcome of a game, but it could help the Golden Knights in what should be a difficult matchup.

Two players Vegas needs to contribute are Jack Eichel and Chandler Stephenson; neither played well on Saturday, finishing the game with minus-three ratings and zero shots on goal. Bruce Cassidy voiced his concerns about the top line’s unwillingness to dump and chase, so it will be surprising if Vegas’ offensive leaders don’t deliver a grittier effort.

With Carrier ruled out, the Golden Knights recalled Jonas Rondbjerg yesterday.

The Stars are having a strong season and have a lot of firepower as well as strong goaltending from Jake Oettinger, who is 19-6-4 with a 2.28 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and two shutouts in 31 starts.

Jason Robertson leads the team in goals (29), assists (31), points (60), power-play points (23), game-winning goals (five) and shots (176). Joe Pavelski is having another strong season with 43 points in 44 games, and Tyler Seguin has played well since getting bumped up to the top line in place of the injured Roope Hintz.

One of the surprises out of Dallas this season has been the resurgence of Jamie Benn, as the captain is fourth on the team in scoring with 38 points in 44 games, including a team-high eight power-play tallies.

Dallas has lost consecutive games, including a 2-1 overtime loss to the Rangers that featured a game-tying goal with under one second in regulation, as well as a 6-5 defeat to the Flames on Saturday. However, the club is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games.

The Stars are averaging 3.43 goals per game while yielding an average of 2.66, both of which rank seventh in the NHL. Dallas has thrived on special teams with a fifth-ranked power play clicking at 27.5 percent as well as a fifth-ranked penalty kill shutting opponents down 82.6 percent of the time.

Dallas’ best period is the third, where it holds a plus-28 goal differential with 60 goals for and 32 against. Vegas’ best frame is the first, where it has potted 47 goals and surrendered 27 (plus-20).

The Golden Knights are 2-2-0 on this seven-game homestand. Vegas has scored 13 goals and given up 13 goals through the first four games and has gone 2-for-7 on the power play and 7-for-8 on the penalty kill.

Vegas has had success against Dallas in the past, going 8-2-1 while scoring 2.91 goals per game and giving up 2.36. The Golden Knights won two of three meetings in last year’s season series, going 2-0-1.

The next few games could be crucial for the Golden Knights as they look to avoid an extended slide, particularly given what happened last season. This is a different team in a different situation, but it bears mentioning, especially with DeBoer in town.

Projected lineups

Golden Knights
Michael Amadio — Jack Eichel — Chandler Stephenson
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Jonathan Marchessault
Paul Cotter — Byron Froese — Phil Kessel
Jonas Rondbjerg — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar

Nicolas Hague — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Kaedan Korczak
Alec Martinez — Ben Hutton

Logan Thompson
Adin Hill

Jason Robertson — Tyler Seguin — Joe Pavelski
Jamie Benn — Wyatt Johnston — Mason Marchment
Joel Kiviranta — Radek Faksa — Luke Glendening
Frederik Olofsson — Ty Dellandrea — Denis Gurianov

Miro Heiskanen — Colin Miller
Ryan Suter — Nils Lundkvist
Esa Lindell — Jani Hakanpaa

Jake Oettinger
Scott Wedgewood

PP1: Robertson — Seguin — Pavelski — Benn — Heiskanen
PP2: Marchment — Johntson — Gurianov — Suter — Lundkvist