Another litmus test lies in wait for the Vegas Golden Knights who will pit their wits against the St. Louis Blues at T-Mobile Arena tonight.
The reigning Stanley Cup champions are in town and it comes at an unwelcome time for the Vegas Golden Knights, who have dropped two straight including a blowout loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
We’re approaching the stretch period of the regular season and the Knights have yet to find an identity, and it isn’t set in stone that they will even make the postseason.
And tonight is the start of a hellish five-game homestand for Vegas, with the Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers all due at T-Mobile Arena over the course of the next week.
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Back on to tonight’s showdown and the Blues currently sit atop the Western Conference, despite going 3-5-2 in their last 10 outings.
However, the Blues are still an elite team and they will be a wounded animal tonight as they go in search of the W.
They rank 12th in Goals For Per Game in the NHL (3.16), although they allow an average of just 2.80 Goals Against Per Game, ranked 9th in the league.
The Blues can boast a red hot power play which is currently operating at a 25.3 clip, ranked 3rd in the NHL.
On the flip side of that, St. Louis have struggled on the penalty kill and they rank 15th in that department (80.8).
Former Golden Knights forward David Perron is having himself a year with the Blues, leading the team in points with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) through 56 games.
Captain Alex Pietrangelo leads all Blues defensemen in points with 44 (13 goals, 31 assists), while six players have recorded 30 or more points this year.
Jordan Binnington is set to get the start in goal tonight and the Stanley Cup Champion is 24-10-6 this year with a 2.66 Goals Against Average and a .910 Save Percentage.
The Blues will be without veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester who suffered a cardiac arrest during the game against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
Bouwmeester was taken to the hospital where he underwent further tests and our thoughts are with Jay, his family and the St. Louis Blues organization.
Defenseman Niko Mikkola was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage on Wednesday.
One of the biggest keys to tonight’s game for the Knights will be to tighten up on the penalty kill having allowed six power play goals in the last three games.
There will be a milestone for the Golden Knights tonight, too, with forward Alex Tuch set to skate in his career 200th NHL game.
The Vegas Golden Knights are 1-1-0 against the St. Louis Blues this year, and tonight’s game is the season series finale.
The Blues won 4-2 at Enterprise Center on Dec. 12, although the Knights got revenge at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 4, after Chandler Stephenson scored the overtime winner in a 5-4 win.
Let’s look at today’s Starting Lineups, per nhl.com:
St. Louis Blues
Carl Gunnarsson – Alex Pietrangelo
Scratched: Niko Mikkola, Jacob de la Rose
Vegas Golden Knights
Max Pacioretty – William Karlsson – Mark Stone
Chandler Stephenson – Cody Eakin – Alex Tuch
Jon Merrill – Zach Whitecloud
Scratched: Deryk Engelland
Injured: Cody Glass (lower body)
Here is all the essential information you need to know prior to faceoff…
Time: 7:00 p.m. PT
Where: T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas
TV Broadcast: AT&T Sportsnet
Radio: FOX Sports 98.9/1340 | Deportes Vegas 1460
Live Streaming: ESPN+ has a free 7-day trial that includes live streaming for this game on all your smart devices! Besides NHL games, ESPN+ features a selection of live games from MLB, MLS, Serie A, FA Cup, and EFL. Get in on the action with Live UFC Fight Nights, 30+ Top Rank Boxing cards, Grand Slam tennis from Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open.
This is going to be a real tough test for the Vegas Golden Knights and the next five games could really make or break their season.
However, if the Golden Knights could get the better of the St. Louis Blues tonight then that would set the tone for the stretch period.