It’s arguably the biggest game of the season so far. The Oilers will host the surging Vegas Golden Knights in the final meeting between the two teams in the regular season.
1. Beating the Golden Knights would pretty much assure that Vegas can’t pass the Oilers in the standings. And, given the way things are going for the L.A. Kings, a win here would put the Oilers in a very good spot when it comes to locking up home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Oilers are at 95 points, the Kings are at 88 points with one more game played, and the Golden Knights are at 87 points with the same amount of games played as Edmonton.
2. A win for the Oilers would put them seven points up of Vegas with six games left each on the schedule, while a win for Vegas here would mean they’re only three points back. Making up three points over the course of six games is certainly doable, whereas making up seven would be a massive uphill climb.
The Oilers finish their season by hosting the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche, hitting the road to face the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins, and then returning home to host the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.
The Golden Knights finish their season by hosting the Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, and San Jose Sharks, and then they hit the road to play the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and St. Louis Blues.
The Kings, who we shouldn’t write off, have the easiest schedule of the bunch. They host the Blue Jackets, hit the road to play the Anaheim Ducks, return home to host the Blackhawks and Ducks, and then finish off on the road in Seattle and Vancouver.
3. The Oilers and Golden Knights have played three times this season. The Oilers beat them in Vegas during their five-game winning streak right out of the gate in October and they beat them in Vegas again in late November. The Golden Knights beat the Oilers in Edmonton in February by a score of 4-0. The following night, the Oilers lost to the Blackhawks and Dave Tippett was fired.
It’s interesting that the away team has won all of the games between Edmonton and Vegas thus far this season as these are both teams that play quite well at home. The Oilers are 23-12-1 in Edmonton and the Golden Knights are 21-14-3 in Vegas.
4. The Golden Knights put Nolan Patrick, Laurent Brossoit, and Will Carrier on the Long-Term Injured Reserve at the same time, giving them the adequate cap space needed to activate Mark Stone, who was placed on the LTIR in order to accommodate activating Jack Eichel back in February.
This is the first time that Vegas has had all three of Eichel, Stone, and Max Pacioretty in the lineup. They lost their first game that featured their Big Three by a score of 5-4 in overtime to the Canucks, but Vegas came back a couple of nights later with a commanding 6-1 win over the Flames.
The Golden Knights are a team you’d like to avoid in the playoffs when the salary cap isn’t a worry for them.
5. Ironically, one of Vegas’ hottest players right now is Evgenii Dadonov, the guy they tried to dump at the trade deadline in order to open up cap room. Dadonov was traded to the Ducks in exchange for LTIR contracts, but the league wound up vetoing the deal because Dadonov had the Ducks on his no-trade list. The Golden Knights claimed that the Senators didn’t disclose Dadonov’s 10-team no-trade list when they acquired him last summer, and Dadonov and his agent claimed that Anaheim was one of the 10 teams on the list.
In nine games since, Dadonov has 12 points. He had 27 points in 62 games all told before the trade.
6. Scoring hasn’t been the issue for Vegas this season, the team’s top challenge has been keeping the puck out of the net. They dealt away Marc-Andre Fleury over the off-season as a cap dump and opted to roll with Robin Lehner and Laurent Brossoit as his backup. Lehner has been enigmatic all year while Brossoit has struggled with injuries.
Vegas’ best goalie this season has been third-stringer Logan Thompson, who has a .925 save percentage through 13 appearances. In his most recent outing, Thompson made 35 saves in a win over his hometown team, the Flames. Lehner is currently away from the team as he deals with a personal issue so we’ll likely see Thompson between the pipes tonight.
7. Connor McDavid suddenly has competition in the Art Ross Trophy race. McDavid is at 110 points but Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers is catching up. The Panthers are currently on a nine-game winning streak in which Huberdeau has scored 18 points. He’s now at 108 points, just two back of McDavid. Florida also has a game in hand on the Oilers.