The Vegas Golden Knights (19-11) will play in UBS Arena for the first time in franchise history as they take on the New York Islanders (8-12-5) Sunday. This is a bit of an early matinee game for the Golden Knights and will start at 11:00 am PST (2:00 pm EST). This game will wrap up the Golden Knight’s four-game East Coast road trip in which they are 3-0 on so far.
Thanks to the team winning seven of their last eight, the Edmonton Oilers struggling, and the Calgary Flames on a pause due to COVID-19, the Golden Knights have climbed up to second in the Pacific Division standings. With a win tonight, the Golden Knights can tie the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the division with 40 points in the standings.
Meanwhile, the New York Islanders have struggled hard this season. Injuries, COVID-19, and just an overall lack of urgency have let the Islander’s season slip out of their grasp. They are dead-last in the Metropolitan Division standings and after two straight trips to the Eastern-Conference Finals, it looks as if the Islanders will not make the playoffs this season.
They are led in scoring by Mat Barzal, who due to COVID-19 protocols, will not play in Sunday’s game. Barzal joins Ryan Pulock as players unavailable for the Islanders on Sunday. Iyla Sorokin is expected to start for the Islanders.
The Golden Knights are not expected to make any lineup changes outside of starting Robin Lehner over Laurent Brossoit who played last game against the Rangers.
Keys to the game
Robin Lehner returns to Long Island
Sunday’s game will mark the first time Robin Lehner will return to Long Island since leaving the New York Islanders in 2019. Lehner has always been one of the most outspoken players in the NHL when it comes to mental health. In the 2018-19 NHL season, Lehner was a member of the New York Islanders and developed a special bond with the Islanders fanbase as a result of this.
Lehner went as far as to say that the Islander’s fanbase “saved his life.”
“I think about it all the time. I’m not trying to make a big deal out of it. I was there one year. It’s not like I was there 10 years. But it’s going to be nice seeing them all again. They have a special place in my heart and in my family’s heart,” said Lehner.
Expect a huge standing ovation for Lehner from the Islanders fanbase and a big night between the pipes from Lehner as a result. He is freshly shaven for the event too, thanks to Islander’s general manager Lou Lamoriello’s rules.
I’m ready for tomorrow. Yes yes yes. Lou house his rules 🤷♂️❤️ pic.twitter.com/yp8Ycroehe
— Robin Lehner (@RobinLehner) December 18, 2021
Take Advantage of the Islanders’ Defense
After losing guys like Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, and Devon Toews, as well as having Ryan Pulock on the IR, the Islanders’ defense has taken a hit as of recent. Adam Pelech still leads the team on the back end but the Islanders have had to rely on aging veterans like Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene to play significant minutes for the team.
For the Golden Knights, establishing a strong forecheck early on will be a huge key to the success of the game. The Golden Knights also need to continue their strong transition game through the neutral zone. Something we have seen the misfit line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith have success with lately.
Get the Top-Line Scoring Again
The Golden Knight’s top line of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Chandler Stephenson has been held off the scoresheet for the past two games. With the trio having a tremendous amount of success prior to this two-game drought, it is reasonable to expect a big game from them tonight.
Stone and Pacioretty had their nine-game point streaks snapped two games ago versus the New Jersey Devils. Despite this, both are putting up ridiculous numbers this season as Pacioretty for example has 12 goals in 13 games. Stephenson still leads the Golden Knights in points with 29 in 29 games played.
PROJECTED VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS LINES
Max Pacioretty- Chandler Stephenson- Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault- William Karlsson- Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark- Nicolas Roy- Evgenii Dadonov
William Carrier- Brett Howden- Keegan Kolesar
Nicolas Hague– Alex Pietrangelo
Shea Theodore- Dylan Coghlan
Brayden McNabb- Zach Whitecloud
Robin Lehner/Robin Lehner
Vegas Golden Knights Special Teams
Special Teams: 17.33% Powerplay (22nd) and 71.91% Penalty Kill (23rd)
PP1: Dadonov, Stephenson, Stone, Theodore, Pacioretty
PP2: Roy, Karlsson, Smith, Marchessault, Pietrangelo
PK1: Stephenson, Stone, McNabb, Pietrangelo
PK2: Howden, Kolesar, Hague, Whitecloud
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols
Jack Eichel, Nolan Patrick, Alec Martinez
PROJECTED NEW YORK ISLANDERS LINES PER PUCKPEDIA
Anthony Beauvillier- Brock Nelson- Josh Bailey
Andres Lee- Jean-Gabriel Pageau- Oliver Wahlstrom
Kyle Palmieri- Austin Czarnik- Zach Parise
Matt Martin- Casey Cizikas- Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech- Scott Mayfield
Zdeno Chara- Noah Dobson
Robin Salo- Andy Greene
Iyla Sorokin/Semyon Varlamov
New York Islanders Special Teams
16.18% Powerplay (26th) and 83.56% Penalty Kill (7th)
PP1: Lee, Nelson, Palmieri, Wahlstrom, Dobson
PP2: Parise, Pageau, Bailey, Beauvillier, Salo
PK1: Cizikas, Clutterbuck, Pelech, Mayfield
PK2: Pageau, Parise, Chara, Greene
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols
Ryan Pulock, Mat Barzal
How to Watch/Listen: 11:00 am on ESPN+ and Fox Sports 98.9 FM.