After an exciting, but tough loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, the Minnesota Wild will be back in action Tuesday night with the hopes of taking down the Vegas Golden Knights — something they’ve been quite good at since Vegas joined the league.
The Wild, inexplicably, are undefeated against the Golden Knights in T-Mobile Arena and hold an overall record of 5-0-1 in their six meetings with what is now the NHL’s second newest franchise. For some reason, the Wild just seem to have Vegas’ number.
Of course, beating the Golden Knights Tuesday night will be no easy feat. Vegas is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games and sits just one point behind the Pacific Division-leading Arizona Coyotes with an 18-13-5 record (good for 41 points). The Knights are also coming off a pretty impressive 6-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. Max Pacioretty, who’s been absolutely sensational for Vegas this season, scored two goals and added a pair of helpers against Vancouver, bringing his season total to 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists) in 36 games.
Oh, and let’s also not forget about Marc-Andre Fleury, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny and, of course, former Wild prospect Alex Tuch, who have all been very, very good for Vegas this season.
The Golden Knights are pretty loaded, but the Wild have their fair share of weapons, too. Eric Staal, Kevin Fiala, Ryan Donato and Carson Soucy have all been playing some excellent hockey recently, and they’ll all need to keep up the pace in order to beat Vegas on the road, regardless of past success in the Golden Knights’ barn.
So, who will be starting in net for both teams Tuesday night? In all likelihood, Alex Stalock will man the crease against Vegas. Kaapo Kahkonen has been sent back down to the AHL, and Stalock performed well in Saturday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers. If not Stalock, we might finally see Devan Dubnyk back in net! Though it wouldn’t be surprising if he gets the start later in the week. As for Vegas, it’s more of a toss-up. Fleury started in Sunday’s win against Vancouver, but the Knights have made it a priority to give Malcolm Subban more starts this season.
1. Can Minnesota shut down the Golden Knights’ dangerous top line?
The line of Marchessault, Karlsson and Smith has been fantastic ever since it first formed back in 2017-18. Despite some early struggles to the season, the line has really started to hit its stride since the start of December. Marchessault is finally finding the back of the net after a rough October, Smith has been one of Vegas’ best players this season and Karlsson remains one of the better two-way centers in hockey. It won’t be easy, but shutting down the Knights’ top line will be huge for the Wild as they look to remain undefeated in Vegas.
2. Will the Wild put an end to Pacioretty’s point streak?
As mentioned earlier, Pacioretty has been quite fantastic for Vegas all season, but particularly over the last week. In his last four games, the man known as “Patches” has posted five goals and three assists. He currently leads the Golden Knights in goals, assists and points and is just six points shy of tying his season total from 2018-19 (40) in 30 fewer games. Pacioretty is perhaps the best player on Vegas’ roster, and life will be much easier for the Wild if they can keep him off the scoresheet.
3. Can the Wild keep up the momentum on the power play?
The Wild were on a 0-for-18 run on the power play until Eric Staal scored his 1,000th point on Sunday. It was only one goal, but perhaps Staal’s goal can get the Minnesota power play back to consistently generating scoring chances that result in goals.
Doing so won’t be easy, though. The Golden Knights have a very good penalty kill capable of manufacturing shorthanded scoring chances, as evidenced by their six shorthanded goals on the season. In comparison, the Wild have exactly two (2) shorthanded goals this season.