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

Nate Schmidt finally returns, but will he be enough to help the Knights get a road win?

If you’re not already sitting, you might want to grab a chair before reading this next little bit because I’m about to give you a quick reality check. You might not like what I have to say, but don’t shoot the messenger.

The Golden Knights’ sophomore NHL season is officially a quarter finished, and they’re sitting in seventh place in the Pacific Division with a measly 8-11-1 record.

We’re getting to the point of the year where we can no longer blame this record on a slow start, bad luck, or injuries. At the end of the day, the record is what it is and time to get things back on track is quickly running out. As it stands today, the Golden Knights are being pegged with just under a 50/50 chance of making the playoffs.

There is a sign of hope, though. The Golden Knights have only played three games against division opponents. Tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers marks their fourth. In their next 10 games, the Golden Knights face the Oilers twice, the Calgary Flames twice, the Arizona Coyotes once and the Vancouver Canucks once.

Other teams in the Pacific haven’t fared too well either, considering only two teams have more wins than losses right now. It’s pretty safe to say that this stretch of games will be crucial to determining the outcome of the Knights’ season. If the Knights can pick up some big wins within their division, they’ll be in much better shape. They faced the Oilers four times last season, going 1-2-1 including an 8-2 blowout loss.

The return of Nate Schmidt

Schmidtty’s back.

After fully serving his 20-game ban, defenseman Nate Schmidt makes his season debut and of course it’s likely against Connor McDavid.

Schmidt should slot right into the lineup and eat up a healthy chunk of ice time. While we’ve all been patiently waiting for him to come back, there are still a couple of question marks surrounding him. He practiced in Austria with the Vienna Capitals during his suspension, and has been practicing with the Golden Knights for the last week in preparation for his return, but it’s not the easiest task to just jump into an NHL game midseason.

The lineup right now looks drastically different than the lineup Schmidt was a part of last year, so it might take a bit of time for him to gel. Regardless, he can be the addition to the lineup that can start to help turn the Golden Knights season around.

Woes on the road

The Golden Knights finished with an impressive 22-14-5 record on the road last year. This year they’re already over halfway to that loss total of last season, as they’re 3-8-0 in away games. Simply put, the Knights will have to get things rolling when they’re away from T-Mobile Arena. Vegas has a minus-15 goal differential on the road, and that simply won’t cut it.

If they want a shot at making the postseason, their play on away ice will have to improve dramatically. Luckily they’re catching the Oilers on a back-to-back, as they were in Calgary last night where they lost 4-2.

Watch out for these two players

I’m no expert, but that Connor McDavid guy is really good at hockey. He’s been terrorizing the league ever since he was drafted first overall in 2015, and took no exception when he was introduced to the Golden Knights last season. In his four games against the Knights last year, McDavid piled up two goals and six assists and will look to add to that total tonight.

Alex Tuch’s four game point streak came to an end when he failed to record a point against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, but he’s been on a tear since returning from his injury and inking a lucrative contract extension. With two goals and four assists in his last five games, Tuch has been one of the most dangerous forwards on the Knights so far.

How to watch

Time: 5 p.m. PT

TV: AT&T Sports - Rocky Mountain

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM