The San Jose Sharks (12-7-4) and the Vegas Golden Knights (11-12-1) will meet for the first time this regular season tonight — the first time the two teams have met in a game that matters since the second round playoff series last spring.
For Vegas, the first quarter of the season was a series of adjustments. The team had to weather 20 games without defenseman Nate Schmidt. He was suspended for a positive PED test. Schmidt played his first game for the Golden Knights last Sunday and has 0 points and just 3 shots on goal in his first four games back.
There was a lot of turnover in the off-season for a team that went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals only to lose to the Washington Capitals. Vegas let wingers David Perron and James Neal, as well as center Mikhail Grabovski and defensemen Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner and Jason Garrison all walk.
They also added some pieces, signing center Paul Stastny and trading Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens for center Max Pacioretty.
William Karlsson was the team’s scoring leader last season. He’s not this season. He has 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists) in 23 games. The team scoring leader is Jonathan Marchessault, who has 19 points (10 goals, 9 assists).
The Golden Knights shutout the Calgary Flames yesterday 2-0. Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for the win. With Fleury playing last night, it’s possible we’ll see backup Malcolm Subban tonight. Subban isn’t doing well this season. He’s 0-4-0 with a 4.02 goals against average and a .892 save percentage.
Who’s in and who’s out?
For the Sharks, there was a lot of roster shuffling going on for last night’s game, none bigger than Aaron Dell in the net for Martin Jones. Dell made 19 saves for his second straight shutout. He’s now pitched 127:39 of shutout hockey. While Dell was awesome, it’s hard to believe coach Pete DeBoer will go with him again tonight. I imagine it will be Jones in net for San Jose.
I’m a little less certain on the rest of the roster. Lukas Radil saw his first action of the season last night taking the spot of Antti Suomela. He finished the night with 10:25 of ice time and a plus-1 rating.
Tim Heed was also in the lineup and Joakim Ryan took a seat. Heed had 11:07 of ice time, far lower than any other defenseman on the ice. Even Brenden Dillon was on ice for 16:40. If I had to guess, Ryan learned his lesson and will return tonight.
Sharks Norris Trophy race
I realize that I’m being completely ridiculous and I’m putting the cart before the horse, but defenseman Brent Burns had an assist last night and now has 23 points (3 goals, 20 assists) for the season. He is third among defensemen in scoring, three points behind Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Meanwhile, Erik Karlsson seems to have found his groove in San Jose. He had a goal and two assists last night. EK65 has 8 points in his last five games, including two goals.
The power play power surge
Holy cow, the power play was on fire last night. Three goals on six tries, cooking at 50 percent for the night. Both power play units looked dangerous and it would be good to see that surge to continue on the road.
Bold Prediction: Sharks come out with a lot of fire even though it’s the second night of back-to-backs for both teams. San Jose isn’t happy with how last season ended and they want to give Vegas something to think about. There will be some on ice shenanigans courtesy of Dillon and Evander Kane, but the Sharks will also get it done on the scoreboard, as well. Meanwhile, Jones shows why he’s the number one. A little competition between two goalies never hurt a team.