These next two games suddenly have a lot of merit with teams in the West Division struggling.
It’s about to get busy for the Golden Knights.
Not that the first half of the season didn’t provide their own challenges. It wasn’t that long ago when they had a six-game road trip in nine nights that included getting kicked out of their hotel.
The Golden Knights are about to start a seven-game stint in 10 nights, starting Monday against the Los Angeles Kings, but this two-game set suddenly has important implications than when the clubs met in L.A. a week ago.
Vegas, coming off a split in Colorado, holds a one-point lead for first place in the West Division. The Kings, meanwhile, are suddenly six points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand on the St. Louis Blues and Arizona Coyotes.
“They’ve got a great team,” forward William Carrier said. “They’ve been trying to rebuild; they’ve got some young guys, they’ve got some skills. It’s always a big matchup.”
Even though the Golden Knights have taken the first three of four matchups this season, the Kings play Vegas well. In the midst of the Kings’ rebuild and youth infusion, the Golden Knights entered this season having lost eight of their past 11 against Los Angeles.
This has all the makings of a trap game. The Golden Knights are coming off, arguably, their best performance of the season Saturday in the 3-2 overtime win against the Avalanche. Meanwhile, the Kings are playing their first game in five days and coming off consecutive losses to the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center over the weekend.
“Two great goaltenders, which gives you a chance to win every night, and they have a really good power play,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “When you have that formula, if your goaltender’s on and your power play finds a way to get on the board, you’re giving yourself a good chance to win both home and on the road.”
One of those goalies DeBoer mentions is Cal Petersen, who has been a brick wall against the Golden Knights. In five games and four starts against Vegas dating back to Year 1, Petersen is 3-1-0 with a .941 save percentage and 2.15 GAA. That includes a 41-save performance in Los Angeles a week ago, a 3-1 win over Vegas.
Los Angeles benefited from two goals in a minute’s span in that victory; a goal from Sean Walker that was challenged for goalie interference, and Dustin Brown’s subsequent power-play goal to put Vegas in a 2-0 hole. The Kings have the eighth best power play in the NHL (24.3 percent).
Kings coach Todd McLellan did not commit to a starter.
On the other side, the expectation is Robin Lehner will return to the Golden Knights’ crease for the first time in a week after Marc-Andre Fleury started both games in Colorado. Lehner has won his past two starts since returning from his concussion, allowing three goals on 41 shots.
Pietrangelo back at practice, Glass back in
Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo practiced for the first time Monday since sustaining that upper-body/arm injury that kept him out since early March.
Pietrangelo wore a red non-contact sweater at morning skate, and he’s eligible to come off long-term injured reserve this week. DeBoer said he’s day-to-day.
“It’s going to be a spark. You’re adding one of the best defensemen in the world to your lineup,” DeBoer said. “I particularly really liked how he played the last 10 games prior to the injury. He was starting to really look comfortable.”
Pietrangelo has 10 points in 18 games in the first season of a seven-year deal he signed with Vegas last October.
Based on line rushes, Cody Glass will play after being a healthy scratch the past three games. Glass skated at third-line center with Keegan Kolesar and Alex Tuch and will replace Nicolas Roy.
Golden Knights projected lineup
Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Keegan Kolesar — Cody Glass — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Brayden McNabb — Dylan Coghlan
Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM