CALGARY, Alberta — The Vegas Golden Knights bring their astonishing, record-breaking inaugural regular season to a close Saturday in Calgary.
The host Flames, meanwhile, drag themselves to the finish line of a disappointing 82-game schedule that likely will bring some changes to the organization in the offseason.
The Knights (51-23-7) look to get back on track against the Flames (36-35-10) at the Saddledome after seeing their three-game winning streak end in a 4-3 loss to Edmonton on Thursday.
“We’ve been pretty good as of late,” Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb told reporters in Edmonton. “We’ve had a couple of stretches where we’ve had breakdowns, but that’s hockey. It happened, we have to keep building. We have one more left and we’ll keep building for Game 1 of the playoffs.”
It was against the Flames back on Feb. 21 that the Golden Knights established an NHL record for most points by an expansion team with 84.
Now with the regular season coming to an end the Golden Knights find themselves reveling in a Pacific Division title in their first year with 109 points heading into Saturday. They await the end of the weekend to find out which team they will host in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Flames have won just four of their past 18 games and one of their past 10 to fall out of playoff contention, and as of Sunday morning talk will not be of the playoffs but of the future of second-year coach Glen Gulutzan and others. General manager Brad Treviling wouldn’t discuss whether Saturday’s game will be Gulutzan’s last behind the bench when questioned earlier this week by Postmedia. He is expected to face the media on Monday.
“I’m not getting into any of that,” he said. “That’s an easy thing in sports to do — the first thing is to look at the coach. I think we’ve got a good coach.
“We’ve got some good players, but we’re all subject to scrutiny when a season goes like this.”
The elimination from contention means the Flames have been getting some NHL playing time to some youngsters, including U.S. college grad Spencer Woo, who had 20 goals in the American Hockey League in his rookie professional season. He tallied his first NHL goal in Thursday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets and has impressed observers with his play.
“You never really know how it’s going to go until you get up here,” Foo told Postmedia. “But once you settle into a game and you realize that you can play here, you can still make plays and still find ways to get scoring chances; that feels pretty good.”
The Golden Knights will rest some of their regulars Saturday in a meaningless tilt. Head coach Gerard Gallant gave starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury the night off in Edmonton on Thursday, and Malcolm Subban started in goal instead.
“We’re making sure Fleury’s ready to go; he’s our No. 1 guy,” Gallant told reporters in Edmonton.
The Golden Knights gave defenseman Zach Whitecloud of Brandon, Manitoba, his NHL debut in Edmonton, and he’ll likely play again Saturday. He signed after finishing the season with Bemidji State on March 8.
“You can’t be out of character (when you get to the NHL). That’s the biggest thing is be someone you’re not and I’m not going to do that,” he told reporters. “I’m going to do my best to be responsible and help the team win.”