What to watch for as Vegas heads to Pittsburgh
Marc-Andre Fleury is going home. Can the Golden Knights get him a win over the Penguins?
Marc-Andre Fleury was drafted first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2003 NHL entry draft. If there was such a thing as first overall in an expansion draft, that's where the Vegas Golden Knights would have taken Fleury.
Now, Flower returns home, back to Pittsburgh for the first time as a visiting goaltender. He'll take on Sidney Crosby and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins for just the second time. The first time around, Fleury helped the Knights to a 2-1 win on Dec. 14.
Since then, the Penguins are 13-8-0, and they were on a four-game winning streak before they lost to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday
Evgeni Malkin has been a prime force behind that positive record. He had 15 goals and nine assists since Jan. 2 and has 11 points in his last four games. Crosby has also turned it on as of late, with 3-20—23 in the same time frame.
But forget all of that. Flower’s back in Pittsburgh. I guess you do need some things to watch out for, also.
Slowing down Crosby and Malkin
The Knights are 5-2-0 when not allowing the opponent's first line to score since January. When they do allow the opposing first line to score, they're 4-2-2.
Shutting down Crosby will be high on the priority list for the Knights. It’s one of those instances that sounds cliche, but it’s true. The last time the Knights faced Pittsburgh, they did precisely that. Pittsburgh mustered only one goal and it came from the third line.
This time, though, the focus can't only be on Crosby. The second line has to be shut down, especially with Malkin's recent success. The combination of Malkin and Phil Kessel is too good to be ignored, and Vegas has to have a solution, whether Malkin is matched up with the second line, third, or fourth.
Shea Theodore needs to play better
Over the course of this six-game road trip, Theodore has been making mistakes. Some of them are alarming, but he’s not a perfect player and he was bound to have stretches like this. It starts with his trips to the penalty box, recording eight penalty minutes in the first three game. That was after he had two penalty minutes in 33 games.
In addition, Theodore has given the puck up twice and has been scored on four times after not giving up a goal in five straight games before the New York Islanders game. He had given up two goals in nine games. Theodore has one point in four games.
Theodore has been under 50 percent Corsi in three of the past four games. He was above 50 percent shot share once. Theodore and Deryk Engelland's pairing has an on-ice save percentage below .900 at even strength in the last three games.
Basically, this is the worst streak Theodore has been on in quite some time. He has to turn it around, and it should start with the Penguins. He performed better against the Washington Capitals than he had in some time, so there's hope.
Reilly Smith's hot streak
Since Jan. 2, Reilly Smith has 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 15 games. He has five points in his last four games, including four goals. Smith has turned it on for the Knights at the right time and is beginning to look like the sniper and playmaker he was earlier in the season. So much so, he was named the League’s third star of the week after scoring four goals last week.
If anybody's going to out hot-streak Malkin for the Knights, it's going to be Smith. The Knights will need to outscore a potent Penguins offense for a win, and Smith continuing his scoring streak would play a helpful role.
How to Watch
Time: 4 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM