Time: 6:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: T-Mobile Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, TVAS, ATTSN
Opponent SBNation Site: Knights on Ice
The Vegas Golden Knights swept last year’s season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. This season, the Bolts look to even the score, with their first attempt coming tonight at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights are a Cinderella story no more; a couple of injuries to key veterans and a controversial suspension have left Vegas struggling to rediscover last season’s brilliance. They failed to capitalize on a Vancouver Canucks lineup missing its top young players due to injury, falling in the shootout on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, despite having their perfect shorthanded record fall, the Lightning are far from struggling. They shattered multiple shot-on-goal records against the Chicago Blackhawks, and followed that by shutting down one of the best teams in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche.
Special teams should have a huge impact on the game’s complexion. The last time Tampa Bay played Vegas, they allowed four power play goals. The Golden Knights will be hard-pressed to replicate that success, seeing as they have the league-worst power play, firing at a measly 7.1% this season. Going 0-for-4 against the Canucks didn’t help. Trying to turn that around against the number one shorthanded team in the NHL is going to be a difficult task. However, although Tampa Bay finally looks to be turning their man-advantage fortunes around, Vegas has a strong penalty kill (7th-best). The Bolts may need a repeat performance from Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov on the power play to break through.
Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded his 13th career shutout against the Avs and there is no reason to think he won’t start against the Golden Knights (which would mean Louis Domingue gets Saturday’s game against his former team). As the Lightning are all healthy, there shouldn’t be any lineup changes (unless Stamkos and Kucherov have convinced Jon Cooper to reunite them at even-strength).
Vegas, on the other hand, is missing key players throughout their lineup. Paul Stastny is out indefinitely with a serious knee injury, and defenseman Deryk Engelland was placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury earlier this week. Nate Schmidt continues to serve out his 20-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the preseason. Schmidt, who signed a contract extension on Thursday, has left a hole in an already weak Golden Knights blueline in his absence.
Despite falling off their success rate from last season, Vegas should not be under-estimated. They have out-shot most of their opponents and have had their share of high-danger chances this season. Solid goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury might be enough to stymie the Lightning’s offense, or at least slow it down. Despite a .908 save percentage this season, Fleury boasts a sparkling .958 save percentage in his last four starts.
The Lightning will not only want to pepper Fleury with a barrage of shots, but get in shooting lanes and make it difficult for him to stop the puck. As both teams have strong possession numbers, whichever team leads puck possession by the end of the night could be walking away with two points.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
J.T. Miller - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev
Vegas Golden Knights
Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty - Erik Haula - Alex Tuch
Tomas Nosek - Cody Eakin - Tomas Hyka
William Carrier - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan Reaves
Paul Stastny (injured)
Shea Theodore - Nick Holden
Brayden McNabb - Colin Miller
Jon Merrill - Brad Hunt
Deryk Engelland (injured)