How to Watch: AT&T Sports Network Rocky Mountains (ATTSN-RM), AT&T Sports Network Pittsburgh, (ATTSN-PT), Sling TV, ESPN+
Game Preview: Golden Knights @ Pittsburgh
Following a thrilling 3-2 shootout victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Vegas Golden Knights will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Through 24 games, the Golden Knights are 17-6-1, and sitting atop the standings in the Pacific Division, leading the Seattle Kraken by six points. But after two weak games following the Thanksgiving holiday, the team is desperate to for a true return to form. In their most recent win against the Blue Jackets, the Golden Knights looked better, but still gave up a late goal to Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner to tie the game and force overtime. They were saved by spectacular goaltending by Logan Thompson in the shootout, as well as a remarkable bit of stick-handling by rookie Paul Cotter to seal the win in the seventh round of one-on-ones. They’re hoping to not need extra hockey to close it out against the Penguins.
Keys to the Game: Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh enters the contest sitting in fourth in the Metropolitan division, holding a 11-8-4 record. As expected, veteran and captain Sidney Crosby leads the team in goals and assists for a total of 29 points. Crosby is a perennial threat, so expect the Golden Knights to keep him high on the shutdown priority list. Forwards Rickard Rakell and Jake Guentzel will also be looking to make an impact, following Guentzel’s game tying goal in the final minute of their contest versus the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 29th. That goal is Guentzel’s only goal in his last five games, and could give the winger a confidence boost coming into the tilt with Vegas.
Another aspect of the Penguins’ game to keep an eye on will be the penalty kill. The PK for the Penguins is currently ranked eighth in the NHL, with a kill rate of 81.9%. They’ve been perfect in eight straight games, and have killed of 31 of their last 33. Teddy Blueger has been key to the recent success, as the perfect streak began when the centerman returned from injury on November 15th. The Golden Knights are going to have to neutralize Blueger to make an impact on special teams.
Keys to the Game: Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas is 3-5-0 against Pittsburgh all time, with only one win coming on the road. To improve this record, they’ll need to continue receiving depth scoring, particularly from the fourth line and William Carrier. Carrier has four goals in his last five games, and is on pace to blow his previous career-high nine goals out of the water. He’s created chances by being aggressive on the puck and in his drives to the net, and his strength and speed have been giving opponents trouble all season. With other scoring threats like Jonathan Marchessault and Chandler Stephenson going through slight slumps, Carrier’s contributions have been more important than ever.
Alex Pietrangelo will also be out of the lineup for the Golden Knights, as he did not travel with the team due to dealing with a personal matter. Ben Hutton was the replacement in Columbus, and will likely take Pietrangelo’s spot again. Defenseman Daniil Miromanov was also called up from the Henderson Silver Knights this morning, and skated with the team. Expect most of the burden of Pietrangelo’s absence to fall on Shea Theodore, who was on the ice for nearly half an hour in the win against the Blue Jackets Monday night.
Yesterday’s news about Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang’s recent stroke was sure to hit the Penguins locker room hard. It will be a tough mental test for the Penguins, and Vegas will need to contend with the extra level of emotion from their opposition in order to secure another two points.
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