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The St. Louis Blues and the Vegas Golden Knights square off tonight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the second matchup in a back-to-back series. The Golden Knights rallied and took the first game with Jonathan Marchessault’s late overtime goal. With the point and the Colorado Avalanche’s defeat of the Los Angeles Kings, the Blues secured a playoff spot, and this two-game series serves as a likely preview of a first-round playoff matchup.
Having clenched, the Blues will probably start backup goaltender Ville Husso in the second leg, with Vegas likely to favor veteran Marc-Andre Fleury. The Blues will also be without star scorer Vladimir Tarasenko, who has not looked like himself since returning from another shoulder injury. Neither Sammy Blais nor Vince Dunn are on the trip; Tarasenko and Torey Krug are with the team but unlikely to play.
Game 1 of the series hosted the largest crowd inside an NHL arena this season, with 7,567 fans in attendance, but they didn’t see forward Max Pacioretty, who has missed several games with an undisclosed injury. Tomas Nosek and Ryan Reaves have also missed time and likely won’t play. On Friday, the Golden Knights started just 11 forwards for cap compliance reasons. Vegas has won two consecutive games in overtime and has been red hot overall. The Blues have also been hot, going 8-3-3 in their last 14 games and riding an eight-game point streak (5-0-3). While this matchup doesn’t have major implications for either team, and the Blues cannot rise above the fourth spot in the West Division, the Golden Knights are still in contention for the Presidents’ Trophy, and two points would be a major step along that path.
- Blues Record: 24-19-9, 57 points
- Golden Knights Record: 38-13-2, 78 points
- Vegas last 10: 8-2-0
- Blues last 10: 5-2-3
- Series Record in 2020-21: 5-1-1 Vegas
- Lifetime Head-to-Head Record: 9-6-1 Vegas
Players to Watch:
- Ville Husso (STL): 8-5-1, .885 SV%, 3.46 GAA
The Blues’ Ville Husso is in his first season in the NHL, and he clearly was not prepared for the challenges of life as a backup at the highest level. Entering the season, St. Louis put a lot of expectations on Husso, and he has sadly disappointed. Tonight’s matchup may be his final chance to show the team they should continue to look to him as their backup in 2020-21.
- Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK): 24-10-5, .926 SV%, 2.07 GAA
Marc-Andre Fleury needs no introduction, but the future Hockey Hall of Fame candidate has had a resurgent season after a turbulent postseason with Vegas last season. He has been a key player for Vegas this season and should see the start here after Robin Lehner started on Friday.
- Ryan O’Reilly: 24 G, 27 A, 51 P in 52 GP
Team captain Ryan O’Reilly has played on another level in recent weeks. He has tallied 12 points in his last eight games and has led Blues forwards in ice time (21:22) over the last six. He will, as ever, be in the conversation for the Selke Trophy, and might deserve outside consideration for the Hart Trophy, though Connor McDavid seems to have that locked up.
- Justin Faulk: 6 G, 15 A, 21 P in 52 GP
Justin Faulk struggled in 2019-20, his first season in St. Louis. But he’s been transformed in 2020-21, and has been the most consistent player on the team’s defense by far. In the past six games, Faulk has averaged a league-leading 27:56 of ice time per game.
- Peyton Krebs: 0 G, 1 A, 1 P in 3 GP
Top prospect Peyton Krebs arrived in the NHL on Monday and has not looked out of place. The former Winnipeg Ice captain has seen increased ice time each game, and the Golden Knights will likely look to his youth as they seek fresh legs in the second half of a back-to-back.
- Jonathan Marchessault: 17 G, 25 P, 42 A in 52 GP
A steady force since the creation of the Golden Knights, Marchessault scored the game-winner in overtime on Friday. He’ll be looking to carry that momentum into Saturday’s contest.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.