Golden Knights hope to win again on road vs. Stars
DALLAS — The last time the Vegas Golden Knights played at American Airlines Center, they defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 on Oct. 6 to win their inaugural game.
On Friday night, Vegas (18-9-1, 37 points) won 4-3 in a shootout at Nashville, running the Golden Knights’ winning streak to three games.
“It’s a tough road trip. We’re playing two good teams and we want to keep winning,” Vegas goaltender Malcolm Subban, who stopped 41 of 44 shots against the Predators, told the Golden Knights’ official website after Friday’s victory.
All three wins during the current streak have come in overtime or the shootout. The Golden Knights are 5-0 in overtime games this season and 2-1 in the shootout, winning each of their past two games.
On Friday night, Vegas led 2-1 after 40 minutes, but after Nashville scored two goals in a row, the Golden Knights were looking at a possible 3-2 road loss. However, after pulling Subban, Vegas’ Erik Haula tied it at 3 with 40 seconds left to force overtime.
And after five scoreless rounds in the shootout, former Star Reilly Smith clinched the win for Vegas, now 7-7-1 on the road, with a goal as the Golden Knights’ sixth shooter.
“They’re huge points for our team, especially coming into a place like Nashville, one of the better teams in the league and staying with them most of the night,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the team’s official website.
While the Golden Knights head into the third and final regular-season meeting with Dallas on a win streak, the Stars (16-12-1, 33 points) are licking their wounds after dropping their past two games by a combined score of 8-2.
On Tuesday night, the Stars fell 5-2 to the Predators in Dallas, a game Nashville led 5-0 after two periods.
And on Thursday night, Dallas got blanked 3-0 in St. Louis, a loss that makes the Stars 4-8-0 against the rest of the Central Division.
“The last two games are good eye-openers. Some of the things we did very well at and the little details that need to go into automatic in our game are not there,” Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said Friday after an optional practice. “Some of the winning habits that we need to have to beat the good teams are not there, and we’re trying to get caught up.”
Another concern for the Stars is the fact that captain Jamie Benn, a former Art Ross Trophy winner, is currently on a nine-game streak without a goal. Benn’s last goal came Nov. 18 against Edmonton.
Benn does have three assists since his last goal, but after an optional practice on Friday, Hitchcock acknowledged that maybe an excessive workload on Benn and Tyler Seguin, which includes plenty of ice time on both special teams, might be adversely affecting their offensive production.
“We probably got to include more people because if we’re asking Benn and Seguin to kill penalties and they’ve done a great job at it, are they going to have enough energy to put into scoring situations? That’s something we’ve got to evaluate,” Hitchcock said.
Something Hitchcock likely won’t have to evaluate much is who starts in goal on Saturday night? Ben Bishop did not travel to St. Louis because of a sore back, so Dallas recalled Mike McKenna from AHL Texas to back up Kari Lehtonen on Thursday night.
On Friday morning, McKenna was reassigned to AHL Texas and Bishop skated with several teammates in Frisco during an optional on-ice session.
“Oh yeah, if he handles practice well, he’s available for selection (for Saturday), so we’ll see,” Hitchcock said of Bishop. “I’m going to talk to (goaltending coach) Jeff Reese and see how he feels about it, but we’re assuming if he comes through this thing 100 percent, it’s going to be our decision.”
Saturday could also mark the return of gritty forward Antoine Roussel, who has missed the past four games with the flu. Like Bishop, Roussel skated during Friday’s optional and he could be in line to make his return against Vegas.
If Dallas gets Roussel back in the lineup, Hitchcock expects the Stars to receive a nice boost.
“Yeah, he provides a definitive energy, which is contagious,” Hitchcock said of Roussel. “But he was also playing awful well (before he got sick). He was playing smart, high-energy hockey and that was really helping us a lot.”
On Thursday, Dallas took seven penalties and the Blues scored two of their three goals while on the power play. In fact, the Stars have committed three or more penalties in nine of their last 10 games, a trend Hitchcock has already addressed.
“We take too many undisciplined penalties, stick fouls, which hurt us,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve got to get that resolved. It’s been kind of an ongoing issue with five or six guys on the team all year. We got to get that resolved so that we can put our best players on the ice more.”
Two positives for Dallas heading into this game are the Stars’ 10-3-0 record on home ice and the fact that the Stars shut out the Golden Knights 3-0 on Nov. 28 in Las Vegas.
“Our five-on-five play is as good as anybody in the league right now. Our five-on-five play, defensively, we don’t give up much,” Hitchcock said. “We need to be better offensively five-on-five, more in the finish area, not in creating chances. We do get a lot of chances, but there is a void. There’s only a select few that are getting all the chances, that’s a little bit of a concern for us right now.”