What to watch for as the Golden Knights face the Wild
The Golden Knights are clearly the best team playing in Minnesota this weekend, right?
The Vegas Golden Knights will head back to the State of Hockey to face the Minnesota Wild in the midst of a six-game road trip. This will be the Knights' second time in Minnesota, with the first time being a 4-2 loss back on Nov. 30.
The Wild are bouncing back and forth on the win-loss ledger. In January, the Wild didn't have a streak longer than two games in either direction, putting Minnesota out of the playoffs right now, though they won their most previous game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 3-2 shootout on Tuesday.
Minnesota is led by Eric Staal (20 goals, 23 assists), Mikael Granlund (15-25—40) and Las Vegas native Jason Zucker (20-17—37). Those will be the three to focus on shutting down for the Knights' defense. Vegas (34-12-4) is playing a back-to-back, so expect Malcolm Subban to get the start after Marc-Andre Fleury got the win in Winnipeg on Thursday.
In the first contest against the Wild (27-18-5), the Golden Knights had three giveaways and six takeaways. They forced the Wild into eight giveaways. That's what has to happen for the Golden Knights to get a win against Minnesota.
If the Knights control the puck and make fewer errors, that will help a lot. In the Knights’ two most recent games, they lost the turnover battle with seven takeaways versus nine giveaways against the Calgary Flames and five takeaways versus 11 giveaways versus the Winnipeg Jets.
That has to stop. The worst offenders have been Nate Schmidt (four giveaways against the Jets) and Shea Theodore (two giveaways versus Calgary). Those two have to control the puck better.
Drive to the net
Both goals against Minnesota came with the Knights making a push toward the net. Brayden McNabb shot behind the circles on a backward pass from Stefan Matteau, and then Jonathan Marchessault followed with a goal between the circles as William Karlsson drew two defensemen.
Getting multiple options as the Knights approach the net and drawing defensemen in one direction or another will be important in this game. If the Knights can create odd-man rushes and move the puck well, it's going to be easier to score on Devan Dubnyk.
Offensively, the Knights need to generate high-danger chances. Defensively, the Knights need to stop them. Against the Wild the first time, the Knights allowed five high-danger opportunities in the final period, as Minnesota got three goals.
In the second period, the Knights created five high-danger chances (allowing zero) and that led to the first goal of the game. Vegas needs to do what they did in the second period instead of the third.
In the Knights' best period against the Flames, Vegas created four high-danger opportunities and allowed three, but they scored three goals. In the second period against the Jets, as the Knights scored two goals, they created two chances versus allowing three.
Basically, continue to create multiple chances each period and the Knights will be more likely to score.
How to watch
Time: 5 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM