Tampa Bay Lightning @ Vegas Golden Knights: GAME #33
Time: 10:00 PM Eastern Time
Location: T-Mobile Arena
Broadcast / Streaming: SUN, SN1, ATTSN—RM
Opponent SBNation Site: Knights on Ice
It has been quite the start to the season for both the Lightning and Golden Knights thus far. Both teams are at or near the top of their division—a feat NO ONE, literally no one, imagined would have happened for the Knights at this point in the 2017-18 campaign. To be completely honest, I didn’t even imagine the Lightning would be tearing up the scene as they are at this moment.
Tonight marks the first game in franchise history for both clubs in which they face off against one another. The Lightning bring a seven-game win streak to the ice, while the Knights are 6-0-1 in their last seven, led by former Bolt Jonathan Marchessault, who continues to defy expectations and make GMs Steve Yzerman and Dale Tallon, respectively, look silly for letting him go in two consecutive off-seasons.
Tonight marks the fourth game of a five-game home stand for the Knights and the last of a four-game western road trip for the Bolts. The last time the Lightning played a club in its inaugural year was in game 69 of the 2000-01 campaign at home against the Blue Jackets. On March 10, 2001, the Bolts came away victorious by a 4 to 1 margin. Let’s see if the can recreate that magic tonight and make it eight straight victories before returning home Thursday night against Erik Karlsson and the struggling Senators.
Those of us who are Lightning fans know all too well just how hot the top line is for the Bolts, but for those of us who haven’t followed the Knights too much this season might be surprised to find out just how good the expansion club’s top line of Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, and Jonathan Marchessault has been, as well.
The Lightning trio of Namestnikov, Stamkos, and Kucherov has a combined 117 points in 32 games, which is flat out ridiculous. Their counterpart line tonight has a combined 81 points through 32 games, which is also a remarkably high number considering the members of this Vegas line and the fact that Marchessault has only skated in 29 of the club’s 32 games.
Last season, Karlsson had career highs in goals, assists, and points with 6 tallies and 19 apples for 25 points across 81 games. As the Knights’ top-line center this year, he has already shattered those accolades by putting up 15 goals and 12 assists for 27 points. Reilly Smith, too, is on pace for a career year in points, after a down year with the Panthers last year that only saw him notch 37 points. Smith has 9 goals and 16 assists for 25 points this year. His career highs for goals and assists stands at 25 each.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Vladislav Namestnikov — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn — Yanni Gourde — Cory Conacher
Chris Kunitz — Cedric Paquette — J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman — Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev — Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn — Dan Girardi
In my opinion, Slater Koekkoek will only return to the lineup tonight if Cooper opts to go 11/7.
Vegas Golden Knights:
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Jonathan Marchessault
David Perron — Erik Haula — James Neal
Brendan Leipsic — Cody Eakin — Alex Tuch
Will Carrier — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Tomas Nosek
Shea Theodore — Deryk Engelland
Jon Merrill — Nate Schmidt
Brayden McNabb — Colin Miller