Preview: Golden Knights wrap up successful road swing in narrative-laden matchup against Sabres
The Golden Knights look to extend their winning streak to nine games.
The Vegas Golden Knights (12-2-0), fresh off their eighth straight victory, will look to go a perfect 5-0-0 on their Eastern Conference road trip when they square off against the Buffalo Sabres (7-6-0) this afternoon at KeyBank Center (4 p.m. PT).
Vegas is 5-3-0 in the all-time series, averaging 3.13 goals for and 2.63 goals against per game.
The Golden Knights enter today’s tilt on an eight-game winning streak.
Golden Knights win eighth straight with 4-3 OT victory against Maple Leafs
A ninth consecutive victory would mark the second-longest winning streak in franchise history, trailing only the club’s 10-game streak in April of 2021; that stretch featured two wins against the Coyotes, Kings and Sharks, three wins against the Ducks and one win against the Avalanche.
The Sabres got off to a strong 7-3-0 start to the season but enter today’s game having dropped three straight, including back-to-back 5-3 losses against Carolina and Tampa Bay followed by a 4-1 loss to Arizona.
But today’s game is a significant meeting for two teams that participated in a blockbuster trade a little over a year ago.
🚨 OFFICIAL 🚨— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) November 4, 2021
The Golden Knights have acquired Jack Eichel and a conditional pick from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and two conditional picks.
JACK EICHEL IS A GOLDEN KNIGHT!!! #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/T8hLG2BcZI
Three players, in particular, have had this one circled on the calendar: Jack Eichel, Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, all of whom were involved in the deal.
When Eichel made his return to Buffalo last year, things didn’t quite go well.
For Eichel or for the Golden Knights.
Vegas suffered a 3-1 loss, Eichel made some questionable comments about the Buffalo fanbase following the game, and both Tuch and Krebs scored in the Sabres’ victory.
In fact, Tuch’s goal came in the final 36 seconds of regulation, and he managed to get past Eichel and score from a bad angle to seal the win.
Secured the W ✅#LetsGoBuffalo | @JagermeisterUSA pic.twitter.com/w8Xn77Kmxj— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) March 11, 2022
But it was Eichel’s postgame interview that will draw the ire of Sabres fans today and, likely, for the rest of his career.
Eichel changed his tune with several warm remarks following Vegas’ win in Toronto on Tuesday, but expect him to be serenaded by an unwelcoming crowd.
More Eichel: "I'm not somebody who leaves and wishes bad upon anyone. I just don't really believe in that. I'm really happy in my situation and it's nice to see that they've been doing well." (2/2) #Sabres #VGK— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) November 8, 2022
But all three players have fared well since the deal, and Eichel has really started to shine in recent games. Since his last-second overtime game-winner against Winnipeg, Eichel has looked like the Eichel of old.
Jack Eichel thriving one year after being dealt to Golden Knights
He enters today’s game on a six-game point streak during which he has recorded three goals and eight points.
He also leads the Golden Knights in scoring with six goals and 15 points in 14 games and is tied with Alex Pietrangelo with a team-high five power-play points.
Tuch recorded 38 points in 50 games last year and has seven goals and 11 points in 13 games this season, though he has slowed down a bit after scoring six goals and seven points in his first five games of the year. That being said, he scored in both meetings against Vegas last year and will be especially motivated to do so again today.
Krebs scored seven goals and 22 points in 48 NHL games last year, 10 of which came on the man-advantage; he added 26 points in 28 games with Buffalo’s AHL affiliate.
This year, he has two assists and zero power-play points — as well as just seven shots on goal — in 11 games.
He saw an average of 2:19 on the power play last season, which was fifth among Buffalo forwards. This season, however, he is averaging just 1:17, trailing eight other Sabres forwards. This could account for the drop in production, though he was scratched for two games and has had to play throughout the lineup. He recently got moved back to center, and Buffalo’s shuffled lines from yesterday’s practice indicate he may center the fourth line.
Even so, the former first-round pick (No. 17 in 2019) is playing his first full NHL season at 21 years old, an opportunity he may not have had in Vegas.
If he is on the fourth line and Sabres head coach Don Granato elects to hard-match against Vegas’ fourth line, Krebs will have his hands full.
That’s because Vegas’ fourth line has been stellar of late.
Nicolas Roy and William Carrier are riding multi-game point streaks, and Keegan Kolesar had a two-point effort earlier this week in Montreal. The trio has combined for five goals and nine points in the last four games and has scored a goal in four straight contests.
But both of Vegas’ top-six lines have been surging as well, particularly the Misfit Line, which orchestrated Vegas’ comeback win the other night.
Reilly Smith has five goals in his last three games and has scored two goals in back-to-back games, and he and William Karlsson are tied for second on the team in scoring with 12 points apiece.
In the eight games since Bruce Cassidy reunited the Misfits, Smith has six goals and nine points and Karlsson has two goals and eight points (Jonathan Marchessault has one goal and four points). Smith and Karlsson have combined for two shorthanded goals in that stretch. Smith leads the Golden Knights in goals (seven) and is in a four-way tie for the most shorthanded goals in the NHL.
For the Sabres, Victor Olofsson has a team-high nine goals, but Tage Thompson has been on fire in recent games, scoring seven goals and 13 points in his last six contests. He has eight goals and 16 points in 13 games this season.
Notably, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is tied with Thompson for the team lead in points with 16 of his own (seven goals and nine assists). Dahlin’s 16 points are second among all NHL defensemen, and he has recorded a point in 12 out of 13 games this season; that includes two goals and seven points during his current five-game point streak.
The Golden Knights will do their best to slow them down, starting in the crease, where Logan Thompson and Adin Hill have impressed.
Thompson is 7-2-0 with a 2.12 goals-against average and .930 save percentage and is tied for first in the NHL with two shutouts. Hill has been very effective as well; in fact, he is 5-0-0 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
But Sabres netminder Craig Anderson, who recorded the 300th win of his career when these teams met in Buffalo last year, is 3-1-0 with a 2.25 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.
Eric Comrie is 4-5-0 with a 3.34 goals-against average and .892 save percentage. He is coming off back-to-back losses in which he surrendered a combined seven goals.
Anderson is 2-4-1 with a 4.06 goals-against average and .895 save percentage all-time against Vegas, while Comrie has yet to face the Golden Knights.
This is the final game of Vegas’ five-game road trip; the Golden Knights have gone 4-0-0 while outscoring their opponents 18-13.