The Vegas Golden Knights look to salvage two points on the road trip in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers. If there is one game that the Panthers have circled on their schedule, this is it.
Betting line: Draft Kings has the Golden Knights as a slight underdog at plus-102 with an over/under of 6.5.
Key storylines: If one player has this game circled on their schedule, it is Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk has not forgotten about the hit Keegan Kolesar put on him that knocked him out of game five of the Stanley Cup Final. Expect to see Tkachuk looking to make an impact every shift he is on the ice.
The Golden Knights will be looking for any path possible to at least a point in the final game of a three-game road trip that has gone anything but well. Logan Thompson is day-to-day, Adin Hill hit the injured reserve, and Jiri Patera allowed five goals Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. This game has an earlier start time, could coach Bruce Cassidy opt to give Isaiah Saville his first NHL start?
Regardless of who is in goal for the Golden Knights or what Tkachuk is up to, the Golden Knights need to leave Florida with a point or better.
About the Golden Knights (21-8-5, 47 points): The Golden Knights have allowed 27 goals in their last six games. Before the Dec. 10 game against the San Jose Sharks, it took the Golden Knights 11 games to give up greater than 27 goals. Better defense, better special teams, better puck management, and better breakouts are needed to stop the bleeding defensively. It does not help having the team’s No.3 and No. 4 goaltenders dressing just 35 games into the season.
On the positive side, the Golden Knights have scored 25 goals in their last six games. The goals are there. The team will be fine as long as they can clean up things defensively.
Golden Knights to watch: Jack Eichel remains hot with a 12-game points streak. Mark Stone is still on a point-per-game pace. Jonathan Marchessault had a great response after declaring, “It’s not about X’s and O’s tonight. It’s all about how we respond next game” after Tuesday’s loss against the Carolina Hurricanes. Marchessault had two goals against the Lightning. It would not be surprising to see Marchessault log another goal Saturday afternoon.
Patera or Saville? Either goalie will be watched closely as the Golden Knights’ goaltending situation is under evaluation without Thompson and Hill available.
About the Panthers (18-12-2, 38 points): The Panthers enter Saturday’s game third place in the Atlantic Division and No. 13 overall in the NHL. Sam Reinhart leads the Panthers with 39 points (18 goals). Tkachuk is having a down season with 22 points (five goals).
Sergei Bobrovsky expects to get the start in net and is 14-8-1 with a 2.52 GAA and .909 SV%. The Golden Knight scored eight times on Bobrovsky the last time these two teams were on the ice together. Add Bobrovsky to the list of players who has Saturday’s game circled on the calendar.
How to watch
Time: noon PST.
TV: Vegas 34 (Scripps Sports)
Radio: FOX Sports Las Vegas 98.9/1340