The Vegas Golden Knights (32-22-4, 68 points) will look to avoid another loss in a trap game Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres (18-32-8, 44 points). Amidst their current struggles, the Golden Knights have lost seven of their last eleven games. Two of these losses have come to basement-dwelling NHL teams this season in the Arizona Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers.
Jack Eichel will make his return to Keybank Center in Buffalo, New York as a visiting player for the first time in his career. Eichel spent six seasons with the Sabres organization and scored 355 points in 375 games. Eichel stated that there is no bitterness or hard feelings between him and the Sabes.
“You wonder what the reception will be like, but I can’t control that. I gave everything I had while I was here. Whatever the reception is, I’ll be able to handle it,” said Eichel after Thursday’s morning skate.
The Sabres are once again having a rough season with just 18 wins on the year. They are led in scoring by Tage Thompson who has 42 points in 54 games. Jeff Skinner is also having a bounce-back season and has 23 goals and 41 points in 56 games.
Former Golden Knights Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, who were both traded in the Eichel deal, are fitting in nicely with the Sabres. Krebs has 11 points in 24 games and Tuch is scoring at almost a point-per-game pace with 23 points in 26 games.
Elsewhere, Reilly Smith will not be available for the Golden Knights. Robin Lehner will also not play as he has flown back to Las Vegas for tests on his lower body.
Robin Lehner has been sent back to Las Vegas for “some tests” relating to a lower body injury.
Logan Thompson has joined the team here in Buffalo and Laurent Brossoit will start tonight against the Sabres.
— Jesse Granger (@JesseGranger_) March 10, 2022
Keys to the Game
Close the Chapter on Eichel in Buffalo
There are a lot of connections between the Buffalo Sabres and Vegas Golden Knights in terms of active players. Eichel, Krebs, Tuch, Cody Eakin, Malcolm Subban, Colin Miller, Brayden McNabb, William Carrier, and Robin Lehner have all played on both sides of the spectrum. All eyes will be on Eichel in his return to Keybank Center and the already confirmed video tribute that will take place.
But Thursday night’s game is just another game on the schedule for both teams. The Golden Knights are not in town solely because of Jack Eichel. They are here to play hockey and to win, which is something the team needs badly. The Golden Knights need to treat this game like just another game and take care of business against the Sabres.
I have come to the realization that I need to be vaguer in my keys to the game. I could be sarcastic and say that the Golden Knights need to score more goals than the other team, but I digress. This team has been outscored 32-23 in their last eleven games. They keep running into what appear to be hot goaltenders who shut down their offense and make north of 40 saves on the night.
There really is no better way to say it; the Golden Knights need to score. But don’t just take it from me, here is a direct quote from head coach Peter DeBoer.
“We didn’t score enough to win the game,” DeBoer said after the VGK’s loss against the Flyers.
It is as simple as that. Perhaps Thursday the Golden Knights will torch the Sabres 8-0 or something like that and put all of this talk about how the team can’t score to rest.
Avoid the Trap Game (Attempt 3)
As mentioned before the Golden Knights have lost games against the Arizona Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers since Eichel joined the team. They cannot afford to lose another against the Sabres Thursday. Points add up and the Golden Knights have already seen the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings pass them in the Pacific Division Standings.
Anything less than two points against the Sabres will be looked at as a failure for the Golden Knights.
Projected Vegas Golden Knights Line Combinations
Max Pacioretty- Jack Eichel- Nicolas Roy
Jonathan Marchessault- William Karlsson- Evgenii Dadonov
William Carrier- Chandler Stephenson- Michael Amadio
Jonas Rondbjerg- Jake Leschyshyn- Keegan Kolesar
Nicolas Hague- Alex Pietrangelo
Shea Theodore- Zach Whitecloud
Ben Hutton- Dylan Coghlan
Laurent Brossoit/Robin Lehner
Vegas Golden Knights Special Teams
18.12% Powerplay (24th) and 79.62% Penalty Kill (18th)
PP1: Pacioretty, Eichel, Dadonov, Marchessault, Theodore
PP2: Smith, Roy, Karlsson, Stephenson, Pietrangelo
PK1: Karlsson, Smith, Hague, Pietrangelo
PK2: Stephenson, Roy, Hutton, Whitecloud
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols/Scratches/Taxi Squad
Mark Stone (back), Alec Martinez (face), Nolan Patrick (head), Brayden McNabb (hand), Mattias Janmark (unknown), Brett Howden (lower-body), Robin Lehner (lower-body), Reilly Smith (unknown)
Projected Buffalo Sabres Line Combinations
Jeff Skinner- Tage Thompson- Alex Tuch
Victor Olofsson- Casey Mittelstadt- Kyle Okposo
Peyton Krebs- Dylan Cozens- Vinnie Hinostroza
Rasmus Asplund- Cody Eakin- John Hayden
Rasmus Dahlin- Henri Jokiharju
Mattias Samuelsson- Jacob Bryson
Robert Hagg- Casey Fitzgerald
Craig Anderson/Dustin Tokarski
Buffalo Sabres Special Teams
19.75% Powerplay (19th) and 75.66% Penalty Kill (27th)
PP1- Tuch, Krebs, Skinner, Thompson, Dahlin
PP2- Cozens, Mittelstadt, Okposo, Jokiharju, Olofsson
PK1- Thompson, Tuch, Samuelsson, Fitzgerald
PK2- Cozens, Asplund, Hagg, Bryson
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols/Scratches
Mark Pysyk, Colin Miller, Zemgus Girgensons, Will Butcher, Drake Caggiula, Malcolm Subban
How to Watch/Listen
4:00 pm on At&t Sportsnet, ESPN+, Hulu, and Fox Sports 98.9 FM Radio.