Four points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with just four games remaining, the Vegas Golden Knights have little margin for error entering their final home game of the season on Sunday night against the San Jose Sharks.
Vegas (42-31-5, 89 points) could close to within two points of the Nashville Predators (44-29-5, 93 points) and Dallas Stars (44-30-5, 93 points) by the end of the day. The Predators will host the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, while the Stars’ next game is against the visiting Golden Knights on Tuesday.
Vegas coach Peter DeBoer knows his team can’t afford another stumble, like the one it absorbed in a 3-2 setback to the New Jersey Devils on Monday. The Golden Knights also have road games left vs. the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday and the St. Louis Blues on Friday.
“I think we’re going to come out and play our best hockey this week,” DeBoer said following practice on Saturday. “I like our group and I like our mindset.”
“You don’t want a team like us to show up in the playoffs,” center Jonathan Marchessault said.
“Energy is good in the locker room,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo added. “We like the challenge. These three days (off) have been good for us. Kind of reset and take a mental break. It’s a big week for us, especially going on the road.
“If we do get in and we win these four games, we’re playing at an elite level here. We’re going to have to play our best hockey to get in. We play some good teams. Obviously the game with Dallas is going to be big, but we have to win every single game.”
The big question for the Golden Knights is who will be in goal for them?
Published reports said starter Robin Lehner would miss the remainder of the season because he needed season-ending knee surgery. That would mean rookie Logan Thompson would take over in net. But DeBoer, who replaced Lehner after one period in the team’s 4-3 overtime win over Washington on Wednesday, denied those reports.
Adding intrigue is the fact that Lehner missed the team’s practices on both Friday and Saturday for what were termed “maintenance days.” DeBoer, who said on Friday he expected Lehner to be dressed on Sunday and that he would be available “to help our team any way he can,” wouldn’t answer further questions about Lehner’s status on Saturday. Instead, the team issued a press release saying, “We are hopeful (Lehner) will be available for Sunday night’s game.”
San Jose (31-35-12, 79 points) comes in off a 4-1 victory over visiting Chicago on Saturday night. Timo Meier scored his career-best 34th goal of the season and also had an assist to lead the Sharks, while Kaapo Kahkonen made 27 saves to win his second consecutive start.
Meier provided a little bulletin-board material afterward.
“I still want to do well in those last couple of games,” he said. “Especially (Sunday), biggest game of the year against Vegas. We can maybe knock them out of the playoffs. We obviously have a rivalry against them, so we’ve got to play hard (Sunday) and focus on those last couple of games.”
–Field Level Media