Struggling Golden Knights start road trip vs. Oilers
Those struggles the Vegas Golden Knights were expected to experience as an expansion team are showing up in their second season.
The Golden Knights begin a daunting week-long stretch on Sunday night against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.
Vegas (8-11-1) -- which was 13-6-1 through its first 20 NHL games last season en route to the Western Conference crown -- finds it difficult to repeat that unprecedented success.
Currently seventh in the Pacific Division, the Knights look to avoid their fourth loss in five games overall after a 4-1 setback to the last-place St. Louis Blues on Friday night. Vegas has also lost eight of its last 10 on the road.
Compounding matters is the upcoming schedule. Over the next week, the Golden Knights play five games against Pacific Division foes, including three straight on the road and two sets of back-to-back contests.
"Definitely not the position we want to be in," said Vegas winger Max Pacioretty, who has two goals and two assists in his first season with the club. "You've got to win against your division to make the playoffs, and I know we're very early in the season right now, but we've got to string together some wins right now."
The Knights are 2-0-1 within their division.
Last season, the team averaged 3.27 goals per game, but has seen that figure dip to 2.45 per contest. William Karlsson, coming off a career-high 43 goals last season, has just four so far. Erik Haula, a 29-goal scorer in the club's first campaign, is reportedly "month-to-month" with a leg injury and key acquisition Paul Stastny hasn't played since Oct. 8 (lower-body injury.)
Karlsson had two goals versus Edmonton last season -- the only Vegas player to score more than one.
But the Golden Knights are getting a key performer back. After completing a 20-game ban for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, Nate Schmidt is expected to make his season debut. He was second on the team among defensemen in scoring with career highs of five goals and 31 assists, and added seven points (three goals, four assists) in the playoffs.
"He's one of our best players, so he's going to make a difference all over the ice, I hope," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said Friday. "Solid guy, moves the puck, skates well, you know what kind of player he is and he's a big part of our group."
The Knights went 1-2-1 against the Oilers last season with both regulation losses coming in Alberta.
Edmonton (9-9-1) heads home after a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. Alex Chiasson and Connor McDavid scored for the Oilers, but backup Mikko Koskinen surrendered two third-period goals and the Oilers dropped to 5-1-0 when leading after 40 minutes.
"Every loss stinks, but it was a big game for us and we didn't get the two points. That's all that matters," said center Leon Draisaitl, who assisted on McDavid's 11th of the season.
McDavid has a team-high 10 points (three goals, seven assists) at home in 2018-19 and was the Oilers' top producer against Vegas last season with eight points (two goals, six assists) in four games. He had a pair of three-point nights in two home matchups with Vegas.
"I'd say he's the best player in the league. He's a lot of speed and a lot of fast," Gallant said of the reigning two-time scoring champion who needs two goals for 100 for his career.
Cam Talbot has surrendered 14 goals while losing four straight starts for Edmonton. He yielded 11 goals en route to wins in three of four meetings with Vegas.
The Oilers, who defeated the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday at Rogers Place, seek consecutive home wins for the first time this season.
"We get another chance (Sunday) to win a hockey game. We'll do everything we can to do so," Draisaitl said.