In a marquee match up on stateside national TV, the feel-good story of the sporting world, the Vegas Golden Knights (47-21-5, 1st Pacific) come to town to take on the streaking San Jose Sharks (41-23-9, 2nd Pacific). Currently sitting eight points up on the second place Sharks in the Pacific division, the Knights are not quite as far away as it seems at first glance. Their record has not been as glowing lately, a respectable but not amazing 6-4-0 in their last ten, and they have one more game against the Sharks before the season’s end. If the Sharks can win in regulation tonight, a six point gap looks less insurmountable.
Vegas’ potential slip down the standings was halted by two four goal wins this week, most recently a 4-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. Those two points came at a cost, however, as starting net minder and very sweet man Marc-Andre Fleury did not return for the second period after sustaining an injury in the first frame. As a result, the Sharks will face their kryptonite tonight: the back up goaltender. Malcolm Subban’s record is respectable: 11-3-1 on the season with a 2.55 goals against average.
The Sharks are playing their best hockey of the season despite a series of injuries across the lineup. Winners of five in a row, the Sharks absolutely dominated the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night to the tune of 6-2, skating to a 57.44% expected goals for and a perfect penalty kill, including a lengthy 5-on-3. The Sharks will need that momentum against the fourth best team in the NHL.
If William Karlsson scores tonight, it will be his first 40 goal season in the NHL. Hell, it’s currently his first ten goal season. There have been more than a few hundred pints of digital ink spilled about the secret to this Knights team and their success, whether it’s due to the distractions to which other teams fall prey in Las Vegas (affectionately termed the “Vegas flu”), some ineffable “Miracle” style chemistry, or a series of inefficiencies in NHL front offices that led to the underestimation of exposed players like Karlsson.
At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s just magic.
Evander Kane -- Joe Pavelski -- Melker Karlsson
Tomas Hertl -- Logan Couture -- Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier -- Chris Tierney -- Kevin Labanc
Barclay Goodrow -- Eric Fehr -- Jannik Hansen
Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Justin Braun
Paul Martin -- Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon -- Dylan DeMelo
Scratched: Joel Ward, Marcus Sorensen, Tim Heed
Injured: Joe Thornton (knee), Joonas Donskoi (upper body), Joakim Ryan (upper body)
Golden Knights Lines
Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Tomas Tatar
David Perron -- Erik Haula -- James Neal
Ryan Carpenter -- Cody Eakin -- Alex Tuch
Tomas Nosek -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb -- Nate Schmidt
Shea Theodore --- Deryk Engelland
Jon Merrill -- Colin Miller
Scratched: Brad Hunt, Oscar Lindberg, Zach Whitecloud
Injured: Marc-Andre Fleury (undisclosed), Reilly Smith (upper body), William Carrier (upper body), Luca Sbisa (upper body)
Fleury did not travel to San Jose with the team, but he’s set to rejoin them in Colorado for their game against the Avalanche on Saturday.
Where to watch
Stream: NHL.tv / NHL App
Radio: 98.5 KFOX / NHL App / Sharks App