What to watch for as the Golden Knights take on the Canucks

Vegas looks for points 85 and 86 on the season in the final game before Monday’s trade deadline.

The Vegas Golden Knights responded in fine fashion to a shutout loss earlier in the week with a seven-goal performance Wednesday night against the visiting Flames. Tonight’s tilt against the Vancouver Canucks wraps up a seven-game homestand during which Vegas has picked up eight out of a possible 12 points thus far with a 4-2-0 record.

This will be the Knights’ second meeting with the Canucks after scoring three unanswered third period goals to take a 5-2 win in Vancouver Nov. 16.

The Canucks, who are 3-6-1 in the month of February, currently sit 19 points out of a wild card slot in the Western Conference and seventh in the Pacific Division with 53 points. Vancouver is fresh off a deflating 5-4 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche in which Anders Nilsson and the Canucks surrendered four unanswered goals after holding a 4-1 lead with under five minutes remaining in the second period.

The bright spot in an otherwise disappointing campaign for Vancouver has been the play of rookie sensation Brock Boeser, who leads all rookies in goals with 27, one of which came in the Nov. 16 contest against the Knights.

Nevertheless, Vancouver is in the midst of a disappointing season and could make some moves leading up to Monday’s trade deadline. But as far as tonight’s matchup is concerned, here’s what to watch for:

Pacific prowess

The Knights will look to improve on an already impressive 15-2-1 record against teams within the Pacific Division. Putting aside Vegas’ 1-1-1 record against the Oilers, the Knights have gone 14-1-0 against division rivals this season, which is yet another remarkable feat this team has achieved so far in its inaugural campaign. But one thing the Knights cannot do is underestimate the Canucks.

The Canucks have pulled off several upsets this season, two of which have occurred in the last two weeks as they handed the Stars a 6-0 loss in Dallas Feb. 11 and shocked the red-hot Bruins with a 6-1 defeat Feb. 17.

Power-play proficiency

The Canucks are coming off a game in which they surrendered five power play goals, including four unanswered power play strikes that blew a 4-1 lead and resulted in a 5-4 overtime loss. At the end of the day, the Avalanche went 5-for-6 on the man advantage, and the Canucks’ 16 percent penalty “kill” cost them the game. This is something Vegas will look to take advantage of tonight. The Knights went 1-for-2 on the power play against Calgary and are operating at an unsustainable (yet admirable) clip of 34.5 percent in February. Vancouver, however, has had the 26th-ranked penalty kill throughout the season (76.8 percent).

Balanced scoring

In Wednesday’s game against Calgary, seven different Golden Knights lit the lamp, and 12 out of 18 skaters registered at least a point. Interestingly enough, Vegas had five different goal-scorers in the November matchup against Vancouver. Plus, the Knights are one of just two teams in the NHL (along with Tampa Bay) with five 20-goal scorers — William Karlsson, James Neal, Erik Haula, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith.

That’s the kind of balanced scoring Vegas will need to rely on tonight against a Canucks team that has ability across its four lines.

In addition, more recently, the bottom-six has stepped up as well. Ryan Carpenter has been on quite a stretch of late, finding twine in four out of his last five games and in six out of his last nine games. He has now tripled his previous career goal total in just 14 games with the Knights this year. With Neal’s status for tonight up in the air, it will be especially key for Alex Tuch to continue to step up and produce more consistently, especially as he takes on a top-six role in the absence of Neal.

How to Watch

Time: 7:30 p.m. PT

TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM