The Vegas Golden Knights (40-29-5, 85 points) are in desperation mode for two points against the Calgary Flames (45-19-9, 99 points) Thursday night.
The VGK are now three points back of both the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars for the third spot in the Pacific Division standings and Wild Card race respectively
Here’s your updated Western Conference Playoff Picture. The Stars, Predators, Oilers, and Canucks all play tonight. The Kings do not play tonight and only have six games remaining on the season.
The Calgary Flames are on the opposite spectrum when it comes to playoff positioning. They can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Golden Knights tonight. Johnny Gaudreau leads their team in scoring with 101 points in 73 games. For comparison’s sake, Jonathan Marchessault leads the VGK with 60.
Keys to the Game
This three-game road trip could be it for the Golden Knights if they drop these Alberta games. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the Golden Knights are in desperation mode to make the playoffs. They need to play hungry as the Vancouver Canucks did against them on Tuesday.
No Time To Nurture
The Golden Knights currently have seven players on LTIR all so that they can have Mark Stone and his $9.5 million cap hit in the lineup for this final playoff push. I understand that coming back from injury is tough, and it takes time to fully recover. But the Golden Knights are in do-or-die mode right now and need the best out of all of their players. There is no time for these players to nurture their injuries.
Stone admitted he was not himself against the Canucks on Tuesday.
“I’m not sure anything came back quick. I can’t say I felt very good. The legs really weren’t there but I was just trying to do what I could to help the team. Hopefully, I feel a little bit better in the next one.”
A Go-To Goalie
Whoever ends up getting the start against the Flames needs to be more than exceptional for the Golden Knights. Robin Lehner has struggled in his four games since returning from a month-long injury. Logan Thompson has not played since his eight-straight starts when both Lehner and Laurent Brossoit were out.
With the clock ticking on the season, the Golden Knights need to keep both of their goalies on a short leash as a struggling goaltender this late into the season will not get you into the playoffs.
Projected Vegas Golden Knights Line Combinations
Evgenii Dadonov- Jack Eichel- Nicolas Roy
Jonathan Marchessault- William Karlsson- Michael Amadio
Max Pacioretty- Chandler Stephenson- Mark Stone
Mattias Janmark- Jake Leschyshyn- Keegan Kolesar
Brayden McNabb- Shea Theodore
Ben Hutton- Alex Pietrangelo
Alec Martinez- Zach Whitecloud
Robin Lehner/Logan Thompson
Vegas Golden Knights Special Teams
17.53% Powerplay (24th) and 77.44% Penalty Kill (21st)
PP1: Pacioretty, Eichel, Stone Dadonov, Theodore
PP2: Roy, Karlsson, Marchessault, Stephenson, Pietrangelo
PK1: Karlsson, Janmark, McNabb, Pietrangelo
PK2: Stephenson, Roy, Martinez, Whitecloud
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols/Scratches/Taxi Squad
Reilly Smith (knee), Laurent Brossoit (undisclosed), Nicolas Hague (lower-body), Brett Howden (upper-body), William Carrier (lower-body), Nolan Patrick (undisclosed), Dylan Coghlan (scratched), Jonas Rondbjerg (scratched)
Projected Calgary Flames Line Combinations
Johnny Gaudreau- Elias Lindholm- Matthew Tkachuk
Andrew Mangiapane- Mikael Backlund- Tyler Toffoli
Dillon Dube- Calle Jarnkrok- Blake Coleman
Milan Lucic- Trevor Lewis- Brett Ritchie
Noah Hanifin- Rasmus Andersson
Connor Mackey- Chris Tanev
Nikita Zadorov- Erik Gudbranson
Jacob Markstrom/Daniel Vladar
Calgary Flames Special Teams
23.56% Powerplay (8th) and 83.94% Penalty Kill (5th)
PP1- Toffoli, Lindholm, Tkachuk, Gaudreau, Andersson
PP2- Dube, Backlund, Coleman, Mangiapane, Zadorov
PK1- Backlund, Lindholm, Zadorov, Tanev
PK2- Lewis, Toffoli, Hanifin, Andersson
Injured Reserve/COVID-19 Protocols/Scratches
Sean Monahan, Oliver Kylington, Michael Stone
How to Watch/Listen
6:00 pm on At&t Sportsnet, ESPN+, and Fox Sports 98.9 FM Radio.