It all starts in Buffalo as the Vegas Golden Knights prepare to get a lengthy road trip started against the Sabres.
Today’s tilt against Buffalo marks the first of a long eight-game road trip for the Vegas Golden Knights, who won’t return home until Feb. 13.
Vegas is currently riding a three-game losing streak and they will need to snap that tonight or risk losing further ground in an ultra-competitive Pacific Division.
However, it won’t be easy against a Sabres team who are fighting for their postseason lives in a stacked Atlantic Division.
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And, on that note, let’s delve into some storylines we think will be worth keeping an eye on through the Vegas Golden Knights’ showdown with the Buffalo Sabres…
Storyline 1 – Marchessault’s Return
After missing five games with a lower-body injury, Jonathan Marchessault looks set to return for the Vegas Golden Knights after the forward took part in line rushes earlier today.
It will be a big boost for the Golden Knights who have missed Marchessault’s grit and energy, especially William Karlsson who is without a single point in his last seven outings, which is just rough.
Marchessault will slot back in on the top line, which will also help restore some balance to the rest of the lineup, and the tough-nosed forward is a real leader on and off the ice for this team so his presence will be welcomed back with open arms.
Storyline 2 – Breaking out of slumps
As already mentioned, William Karlsson has failed to record a single point in his last seven outings, which is completely out of character for the forward.
Granted, all players go through slumps, even the elite, and it is hard to pinpoint exactly why Karlsson has slumped recently.
I don’t think being without linemate Jonathan Marchessault for the last five games has helped but, with the forward set to return to the lineup today, hopefully that will spark Karlsson back into life.
Another player who has struggled recently is Alex Tuch who only has four points since the beginning of December.
It has been a rough year for the forward who has had his regular season ravaged by two separate injuries, and he only has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 31 games.
If Vegas is to enjoy success this year then they will need both Karlsson and Tuch to break out of their slumps soon, and today’s tilt against Buffalo would be the perfect time to start.
Storyline 3 – King Jack
However, Eichel has really elevated his game to a whole different level this year and he’s firmly in the conversation for the Hart Trophy.
Through 45 games, Eichel has 27 goals and 32 assists for 59 points and everything the Sabres do goes through their Captain.
Eichel is the heartbeat of this team and don’t be surprised if he throws his team on their back tonight in order to lead them to a crucial victory.
Storyline 4 – Two desperate teams
To say that both teams come into today’s showdown needing a win would be a severe understatement.
The Vegas Golden Knights have dropped three straight and are battling with a host of teams in a stacked Pacific Division, while the Buffalo Sabres are 4-6-0 in their last 10 games and are currently 10 points out of a Wildcard spot.
Vegas is in a better position than the Sabres, granted, but both of these teams need to be playing desperate hockey right now and that should make for a tantalizing game of hockey.
Storyline 5 – Come out hard
For whatever reason, the Vegas Golden Knights have recently developed a concerning habit in that they are slow to start games.
In their last six games, the Knights have allowed the first goal in the first period and they have also allowed 16 goals in the first period in the last seven games.
Although they dug themselves out of a hole to come back and stun the St. Louis Blues, you are going to lose more games than you win if you carry on spotting teams a lead in the first period.
On the road, where teams generally play a more gritty style of hockey, it will be interesting to see how the Vegas Golden Knights approach the start of the game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Storyline 6 – Lineup news
The Vegas Golden Knights held morning skate earlier today and we were given some interesting little nuggets.
Jonathan Marchessault is set to return after a five-game absence, while Nic Hague will come back into the lineup with Jon Merrill expected to be a healthy scratch.
The Golden Knights are 3-1-0 all-time against the Buffalo Sabres and they will be hoping to keep their good run going against their opponents tonight in order to snap a three-game losing streak and start this long road trip on a positive note.