Vegas has a six-point lead in the West division, but the Avalanche have a game in hand. They’ll look to build on that lead against the Coyotes.
The Vegas Golden Knights are 5-1-0 against the Arizona Coyotes this season. The Golden Knights have scored 20 goals to the Coyotes’ 13, as the Golden Knights have shutout the Coyotes twice this season — both times with Marc-Andre Fleury in net. Vegas will look to go 6-1-0 on Friday and 7-1-0 on Saturday against the Coyotes.
The Golden Knights have had up and down games in terms of possession against the Coyotes. For the most part, Vegas has been the better team at 5-on-5 this season, which has resulted in a 13-8 goal disparity at full strength. But the Golden Knights have also played games against Arizona like on Jan. 20, when the team finished with a 30.86 percent expected goal share at 5-on-5.
Yet, the Golden Knights have had xGF% marks above 53 percent in every other game. Vegas’s series against the Coyotes so far this year has Vegas at a 56.35 xGF% at 5-on-5, so it’s fair to expect the Golden Knights to be the better team.
Vegas is led by Shea Theodore and Jonathan Marchessault, each with six points in six games against the Coyotes. 19 Golden Knights have scored at least one point against the Coyotes this season. Arizona is led by Nick Schmaltz, also with six points in the six games against Vegas. 15 Coyotes have at least a point against the Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights have three goals on the power play against the Coyotes this season, tied for last in the West division. Vegas is also the only team in the West to allow a shorthanded goal to Arizona. That man advantage is going to need to improve this weekend, as Vegas’s offense has scored two or fewer goals in three of the last four games against the Coyotes.
The Golden Knights’ penalty kill has scored the most goals against the Coyotes’ power play with two shorthanded tallies. Vegas has allowed four goals, tied for third-best in the West. The Golden Knights have allowed the second-fewest expected goals against while shorthanded against the Coyotes. The penalty kill has been a real strength against the Coyotes this season.
Vegas saw the return of Keegan Kolesar on Wednesday, after Kolesar was listed as questionable before the game. Kolesar had been missing since Apr. 11 and played 7:31 across all strengths. The Golden Knights played 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Colorado Avalanche on Wedneday, but Dylan Coghlan played just 2:13. It’ll be interesting to see what the lineup looks like against Arizona on Friday.
Arizona is tumbling down the standings recently, going 2-8-0 in their last 10 games. The Coyotes have allowed the third-most goals against in the West this season with 160 goals. They’re 22nd in goals against per game this season. The Coyotes’ special team units aren’t anything special — 18th in power play with 19.8 percent and 13th in penalty kill with 80.3 percent — but they’re not bad.
The Coyotes are led by Phil Kessel (18 goals, 38 points) and Jakob Chychrun (16 goals, 36 points) this season. Arizona is hurt by the injury of Conor Garland, who is week to week with a lower-body injury and will miss both Friday and Saturday’s games. Garland had 32 points in 45 games.
Arizona has had subpar goaltending this season, especially by their recent standards. Adin Hill leads the team with a .911 save percentage in 16 games. Darcy Kuemper has a .907 SV% in 24 games. Antti Raanta has a .905 SV% in 12 games. Kuemper has been the Coyotes’ main netminder recently, although Hill came in as relief on Apr. 26 and did well, with a .955 save percentage. He’ll likely show up in one of the two games.
The Golden Knights are on a 10-game winning streak. Vegas was the first team to clinch a playoff spot on April 21. The Coyotes are still fighting for a playoff spot, as they’ve yet to be eliminated, but are five points behind the St. Louis Blues, who have two games in hand. Both these teams are hungry for victories, so this back-to-back should be contentious.
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+
Radio: Fox Sports 98.7 FM/1340 AM