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The Creator Gives A Rough Guide Of What VGK’s February Schedule Will Look Like

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Like every team in the NHL this season, the Golden Knights have had a number of games postponed due to the ongoing/never-ending pandemic. Luckily, Vegas is in a much better spot than most teams in this regard, needing just four games to be placed back on the schedule.

The Golden Knights were supposed to be in Calgary tonight and were scheduled to play in Edmonton last night as part of an All Alberta road back-to-back. Also, in late December, Vegas lost a pair of home games when the December 23rd game against the Kings and the December 27th matchup with Avalanche were wiped out.

NHL discussions have indicated that these games, along with most of the other postponed ones around the league, will be rescheduled during the month of February that was previously left vacant for the Olympics. With NHL and AHL players no longer going to Beijing, there are three full weeks to squeeze in these makeup games.

I believe we are going to play seven total games in February, might be eight. -The Creator

The current schedule calls for a home game against Buffalo on February 1st and then a home/road back-to-back in Arizona and against Colorado to end the month of February 25th and 26th. Assuming the four games are rescheduled, that would make for seven. However, the mention of eight leaves room for the possibility that another game from later in the season is moved up as the league rearranges the schedules for the teams needing to make up north of 10 games.

Seven games in February would be the lightest month in the Golden Knights’ five year history. They played 10 in in February last year and played at least 13 each of their first three seasons. It’s not all great news though.

Unfortunately we have two back-to-backs, because the league commands we do. We’ve gone back and we’ve tried to get some things adjusted because unfortunately we play a back-to-back then skip a day then play a game and then we have something like seven or eight days off. -The Creator

He wouldn’t give us the exact dates as they are still being finalized, but did give out a few hints.

When you come back from the All Star break you are not supposed to play on the Sunday. So you can practice on Monday but we actually have to travel for two back-to-back road games. -The Creator

This means the Golden Knights are likely headed to Alberta on February 8th and 9th to play the Oilers and Flames. The earlier comment seems to indicate that there would be a home game on the 11th (LAK or COL) and then the Golden Knights would be off most of the week before returning to action with the other home game on the 19th or 20th.

The month would wrap up with the ARI/COL back-to-back on the 25th and 26th with the possibility of another game being snuck in at some point during the month.

Latest NHL Power Rankings: VGK A Multimillion-Dollar World Of Imagination

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since the start of the new year the Golden Knights haven’t been at their best. Vegas is 1-2-2 in 2022 but still managed to add four points to their Pacific Division leading 23-14-2 record. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Golden Knights dominate opponents like they did throughout the month of December, which may have changed minds across the league. When in reality, Vegas picked up four points in five games without playing up to their potential and missing a myriad of starters.

Every so often we like to check in on NHL power rankings across the league. Vegas was a preseason Top 5 team but ever since the injuries piled up they’ve mostly been stuck in double digits. According to aggregate site Power Rankings Guru, this week the Golden Knights checked in at #11.

The consensus was, Vegas had an incredible month of December but took a step back once the calendar year ended. A little dramatic if you ask me.

Let’s start with the league’s site. Vegas rounded out the top ten for the second straight week on NHL.com. Up until they’re fully healthy expect Vegas to be ranked in bottom part of the top ten.

NHL.com – #10 (Previously #10)

The Golden Knights won an NHL record 14 straight regular-season games decided in overtime before losing 5-4 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, the first time they lost in OT since Dec. 19, 2019 (5-4 at the Vancouver Canucks).

ESPN had a little fun by publishing a Disney themed NHL power rankings. Greg Wyshinski and crew went light on Vegas, only dropping them one position.

ESPN – #12 (Previously #11)

To honor this magical place, and with no small amount of corporate synergy, we’ve decided to use this week’s NHL power rankings to match all 32 teams with the Disney World attractions — rides, food, characters — that best fit their vibes.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. A multimillion-dollar world of imagination that offers thrilling rides, lasting memories and the unwavering feeling that it never goes quite as far as you’d like it to go. That weird feeling in your stomach about the Golden Knights in the playoffs is not because you drank too much blue milk …

Sportsnet has routinely had Vegas outside of the top ten. One of the reasons for the lower grade is the injuries to Jack Eichel, Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez. Once those three impact players return I’m sure SN will raise the local boys in their rankings.

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Bad Teams Skew VGK’s Home/Road Splits

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Heading into the faux bye-week, the Golden Knights are 23-14-2. They are in 1st place in the Pacific Division, both by points and points percentage. However, Vegas sits 5th in the West and 13th in the league in points percentage.

It’s been a bit of a rocky road to get here. After dropping three of their first four games in regulation, the Golden Knights ripped off 11 wins in their next 15 games. Then they lost three of six before winning seven of the following eight. Now, they are amidst a stretch of four losses in five games.

One of the main reasons for the ups and downs to this point has been the health of the roster. The Golden Knights still lead the league, by a wide margin, in both man-games lost and cap-hit of injured players.

The next man up stuff is getting a little old. You just hope it all evens out. I think we’ve been hit harder than anybody this year and ou group hasn’t used it as an excuse any night. -Pete DeBoer

To this point in the season, the Golden Knights have played the 13th hardest schedule in the NHL (per ESPN.com). They have the 8th easiest schedule remaining per Tankathon.com. This is excellent news because they have struggled a bit with the better teams in the NHL. It has affected all of their totals, but it’s been specifically impactful in the road record.

Unlike most years in the past, the Golden Knights have been better on the road than they have at home. They’ve boasted an 11-5-0 record on the road while just 12-9-2 at home.

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Eichel’s Debut Gets Closer This Week

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

It’s expected that Jack Eichel will make his arrival this week to officially join the organization. Since his successful neck surgery two months ago Eichel has been showing positive signs of rehabbing and doing light on-ice workouts. Now, it’s time for the Golden Knights training and coaching staff to prepare for his much anticipated Golden Knights debut.

Jack’s rehab has gone real well. We’re getting closer to two months since he’s been rehabbing. We’ll get him to Vegas sometime in January. Confident he will be in the lineup this season. -Kelly McCrimmon on ATTSN intermission on 1/2/22

While it’s impossible to predict where Eichel’s performance level will be, his presence alone will create more challenges for an opponent. We know the obvious reasons why Vegas’ front office made the trade; rare talent, center depth, adding another playmaker, improving the power play, but Eichel will help in dozens of ways. Here are three he will impact immediately.

Flexibility

With Eichel in the lineup, the Golden Knights will be considered one of the deepest teams down the middle. Rank them how you want but Vegas’ depth of William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, and Nic Roy to center the bottom three lines will frighten any postseason team.

I can write down all the line combinations and dream all the dreams I want to as a coach about what we could look like, and yet we know this game changes every day. It’s a bit of a fruitless exercise to try to (look ahead). -Pete DeBoer, VGK coach

Considering what we’ve seen from Stephenson this season, the coach will have no problems slotting him on as third-line center if necessary. With Stephenson anchoring the bottom six the Misfits would remain intact and allow DeBoer more options throughout his lineup. The addition of a highly-skilled center like Eichel might shift the lineup but it’ll undoubtedly improve it.

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Iole: Uninspiring Efforts Becoming Worrying Trend

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Kevin’s back today to take a look at a position of depth, one that’s been notoriously thin in years past.

Pete DeBoer was correct, of course, even though he called Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago at T-Mobile Arena “just another mid-December game.” It’s a long season and a loss to a lesser team in January isn’t anything to get too worked up about in the grand scheme of things.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I’m a lot more worked up about Keegan Kolesar’s lack of production and slowing development, and the lack of an identity for the fourth line, than I am about a loss to a weak team on home ice in the second week of January.

It’s how they lost that game that is troubling. It’s not as if the Blackhawks played an incredible game because they were fired up for Marc-Andre Fleury’s return and wanted to support their goaltender. Oh, the Blackhawks did defend hard in the final two periods in particular, and played solid hockey, but it was far from a Herculean effort by them.

The Golden Knights’ loss was more due to an uninspired effort which, if we’re being honest, has happened far too often this season for a team that fancies itself as a contender for the Stanley Cup.

On Saturday, the Knights badly missed William Carrier, who left seven minutes into the game with what the club later said was an upper-body injury. Carrier’s intensity can and often does have a trickle down effect. Without him, there were far too many passengers.

Nolan Patrick seemed out for a cruise. Kolesar’s big body is perfect for barreling over opponents and cruising to the net, but do you remember him doing that even once on Saturday? There was little urgency, or desire to win, from far too many players.

In an 82-game season, that’s going to happen, and DeBoer recognized that when he was dismissive of it.

But how could the Knights’ come out flat in a game against Fleury, a game surely they should badly want to win? Fleury was the second star, but that was mostly because no one else really stood out. Until a save on Evgenii Dadonov in the waning seconds, Fleury never made one of the five-star saves that have made him a surefire Hall of Famer. The Knights made it easy on him.

We’re still not to the halfway point of the season, and it’s happened far, far too often. They were on cruise control in two of their last three games and that’s unacceptable. Nashville played great in a 3-2 win on Tuesday, but the Golden Knights basically didn’t make it hard on them.

Then, after a stirring effort in a 5-1 win over old friend Gerard Gallant and his New York Rangers, the VGK laid an egg again against Fleury.

There’s not much DeBoer can do to change this, either. He doesn’t have the threat of making moves or sending guys down to inspire more consistently intense play.

On the surface, a Kolesar for Jake Leschyshyn swap in the lineup would probably be good, but to send Kolesar to Henderson, he’d have to clear waivers. That would be risky because he’d almost certainly be claimed.

Guys who are 6-2, 230 pounds, and can skate like he doesn’t are rare commodities in today’s NHL. Kolesar’s a big guy and big men often take longer to develop than other players do. Kolesar seemed on a nice upward trajectory early and looked as if he’d turn into that rare third- or fourth-line big man who could skate, contribute 12-15 goals, play well defensively and create havoc with his physical presence.

The Knights are going to be fighting the salary cap for several years, and it makes little sense to give up now on a guy like Kolesar who has the ability to develop into that kind of player and who has a relatively low salary.

There were some fans pining for the VGK to sign Evander Kane to a one-year deal at the league minimum after his release from the Sharks. But while Kane, though smaller, is a much more effective big man, he brings far too much baggage, and his issue with gambling means Las Vegas is the last place he should play.

It’s not a no or a NO, it’s a “HELL NO, ARE YOU CRAZY?” type of pass on Kane.

Putting Leschyshyn in for Kolesar isn’t likely to happen because it would make the Knights more vulnerable to big, physical teams.

So they’re going to have to make do with what they have and figure out a way to overcome this disconcerting trait of coming out flat far too often.

This is a good team and you have to pick to find problems. They’re the kind of problems teams like Buffalo and Arizona and Seattle and Columbus would love to have.

But when your stated goal is the Stanley Cup, you have to be picky and you have to be ruthless. The kind of effort the Golden Knights gave on Saturday and have given too often this season is unacceptable, and the leadership group needs to impress that upon the players sooner rather than later.

You can’t give away games in the NHL when home-ice advantage will be so crucial against the Colorados and Tampas and Carolinas of the world. And these games in January count every bit as much in the standings as the ones in late March or April when the playoff position push is on.

**You can find all of Kevin’s tremendous boxing and MMA work at Yahoo Sports here.**

Western Teams Getting Ready To Beef Up For Vegas

It’s possible several big names will be dealt on or before the NHL’s trade deadline day this year. One team we expect to be sitting this one out is the Golden Knights, unless they are sellers, but that’s for another day. The local club already made their deadline deal in November by trading for center Jack Eichel. When you consider they’ll also be getting Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez back from injury, you could argue Vegas already won the deadline.

So, while the trade deadline may be boring for VGK fans it could be very busy for other fanbases. Specifically, teams that’ll have to face Vegas in the postseason. Some of those teams have lofty goals as well but most likely they’re not getting to the finals without going through Vegas first.

Edmonton

The Oilers are in trouble. The club isn’t scoring and they’re rapidly dropping in the standings. Even before Connor McDavid tested positive for COVID, the Oilers went on a miserable stretch scoring six goals in five games with a goal differential of -14. Currently, they’re on a five-game dip and are having a hard time digging out of it. Scoring is one problem up in Edmonton but it’s not their biggest.

It’s a brutal mistake. What are you going to do? Call it what it is. We’re playing well, and it’s a brutal mistake. Our goaltending wasn’t very good, and we didn’t get enough pucks to the net to get back in the game. -Dave Tippett, Oilers coach

With McDavid and Leon Draisital, the goals will eventually come but stopping them is a bigger concern. Tippett’s frustrations came out poorly, pointing his finger directly at goalie Mikko Koskinen. Which wasn’t taken well.

It’s not nice for anybody to be thrown under the bus. But this is how it goes in this business. When the team loses, it’s either coach or goalie who gets sacrificed. I have to be better, but at the same time we scored seven goals in my last six losses. I can’t score goals. It’s not only about goaltending when it comes to winning and losing. -Koskinen, Oilers goaltender

It’s understandable why Koskinen was iritated by his coach’s comments and good for him for responding but he should’ve kept it shorter. Now there a speculations that the goaltender has lost Edmonton’s locker room. So on top of his bloated 3.19 goals allowed average he’s creating friction. Bottom line is the Oilers are in the market for a goaltender. And surprise, surprise the biggest name on the market is tonight’s opponents netminder.

Fleury — who has a 10-team no-trade list — might be the biggest netminder name out there if available and none of the above teams has as great a need, or as much urgency to address it, as the Oilers. If Fleury was open to going to Edmonton, finding the right price could be tricky. He’s a rental and, presumably, the Hawks would need to retain cap space on his $7 million tag, so that could add an asset. With the other needs in Edmonton’s lineup, paying up for a rental at any position may not be the chosen course. But if you want someone who you could feel good about making a difference now, Fleury is it. -Rory Boylen, Sportsnet

Elliott Friedman also wrote about Fleury being an option, if the right deal was in place. The former face of the Golden Knights knows the division and has won in the West. Since 2017, the first year Blackhawk is 43-21-7 against the Pacific division and an overall record of 83-16-9 against Western Conference clubs. Fleury’s presence alone would immediately improve the problems in net for the Oilers.

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Golden Knights Make Statement In Win Over Rangers

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

Last night was a good reminder. To fans, to the New York Rangers, to the rest of the NHL, and even to the Golden Knights themselves; when Vegas plays at their best, they are an absolute juggernaut.

On a night where the Golden Knights played with multiple starters still out of the lineup, they completely took it to the Rangers in all phases of the game. It was a familiar sight to those who have watched hundreds of Golden Knights games over the past five years, but one that hasn’t quite been as common this season as in years past.

Against New York, Vegas was exiting their own zone with ease, flying through the neutral zone, generating chances off the rush, and forechecking as a unit to keep the pressure on the Rangers all night long. It led to a game that appeared to be fairly close for 25 minutes to get completely out of hand by the time the full 60 had elapsed.

We started turning those pucks over at the blue line and we started defending in our D-zone instead of playing… giving them time like we’re killing a penalty. When you let them go D-to-D and get pucks to the net and win battles, you’re not going to beat that team. -Gerard Gallant, NYR coach

Vegas scored five goals in total but tallied four in the final 32 minutes of the game when their hard work early started paying off.

I thought in the 1st we were a little slow, but in the 2nd we upped our pace and caught them a few times in between. -Pete DeBoer

The main difference came in the center of the ice. While Vegas’ in-zone defending was solid the entire night, they struggled to control the puck through the neutral zone early against a good Rangers team. In the 2nd, those issues cleaned up and they looked like the team many projected to win the Stanley Cup before this season game.

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McCrimmon Gives Update On Eichel, State Of The Team, During Sunday’s Game

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The start to the 2021-22 season didn’t go as planned for Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon. After beginning the season 1-4-0 and seeing their roster shrink due to injuries, the future looked uncertain for the Golden Knights.

It’s been a different season. I’ve often used the expression that every team runs it’s own race. You look at last year where we were relatively healthier than we’d been this year. We won a lot of hockey games and we were fighting for first place with Colorado the entire season. This year the injuries began early. -Kelly McCrimmon on ATTSN intermission show

Like most fans, Vegas’ GM had confidence that the group he assembled would turn it around. The roster made up of healthy Golden Knights, Silver Knights and free agents kept the team above water and in place for the stars to return.

The reinforcements healed at the right time for a poised Vegas run to first place.

Our first 20-22 games was really survival mode and I give credit to the coaches and players a lot of credit for scratching and clawing. I felt with the Calgary game earlier in December, from there we started really playing with identity and look more like we want the finished product to look. -McCrimmon on ATTSN intermission show

Instead of panicking the organization played through injuries and gathered enough information about their roster to prompt Vegas’ GM to make another franchise shifting move by acquiring center Jack Eichel.

Jack’s rehab has gone real well. We’re getting closer to two months since he’s been rehabbing. We’ll get him to Vegas sometime in January. Confident he will be in the lineup this season. -McCrimmon on ATTSN intermission show

Roughly two months after Eichel’s elected neck surgery the organization expects more positive progression to come later this month. Once he’s settled in Las Vegas, the front office should have better feel for when the 25-year-old will make his Golden Knights debut.

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Iole: Navigating The Upcoming Muddy Waters

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on Sundays. Kevin’s back today to take a look at a position of depth, one that’s been notoriously thin in years past.

After a disheartening 2-0 loss to the New York Islanders at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights were 1-4-0, tied for 28th in the 32-team NHL and squarely in the Shane Wright Derby.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The magic seemed to be gone. Mark Stone was out indefinitely. Max Pacioretty was out indefinitely. Vegas had been outscored nearly 2-to-1 in those five games. The Edmonton Oilers were 5-0 and Connor McDavid looked like he was taking things to an even higher level.

When the calendar turned to 2022, things were vastly different. A 3-1 victory Friday over the Anaheim Ducks that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated, left the VGK with 44 points, which leads the Western Conference and is third in the NHL.

After 34 games, there were 204 possible games played in the top-six forwards. Those players — Stone, Pacioretty, Chandler Stephenson, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Jonathan Marchessault, played in a combined 150.

That means the VGK’s top six forwards only played in 73.5 percent of the team’s games. The top four defensemen going into the year — Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez, and Brayden McNabb — played in only 68.9 percent of the available games.

So, there is optimism that the recent hot streak should continue as the top players should be more available in the second half and, of course, Jack Eichel will debut sometime before the playoffs begin.

But getting cap compliant is going to be a massive chore and mark my words when I say that there will be plenty of pain yet to come in terms of roster subtractions to fit Eichel in.

The untouchables there are, obviously, Stone and Pietrangelo, since they’re not only among the best at their positions in the NHL, but because they had no-move protection.

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Who Is Vegas’ Most Indispensable Player?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This week ESPN chose one player from each NHL team that they deemed indispensable, the “Worldwide Leader” made a surprising choice for the Golden Knights’ most vital performer.

Most indispensable: Chandler Stephenson

We may not have pegged Stephenson as the Golden Knights’ top-line center or leading goal scorer when the season started. But here he is, having a terrific year. He’s averaging a point per game and the most ice time of any Vegas forward. On a team that stumbled out of the gate, Stephenson has been an irreplaceable player helping to keep the Golden Knights afloat.- ESPN.com

It’s hard to argue Stephenson’s value this season. The seven-year veteran is having a career season, leading Vegas in points, shooting percentage (50 shot minimum), and faceoff wins. Overall, Stephenson has been essential to the team’s turnaround since their early 1-4 start.

As a point-per-game player, the highly productive center anchored the top six when Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and William Karlsson were on the mend. In the games that his two linemates were absent, Stephenson emerged as Vegas’ go-to for much-needed offense. Since the season began the Golden Knights are 7-3 when he scores.

As steady as Stephenson has been, ESPN is way off. Here are players more indispensable than Stephenson.

Alex Pietrangelo

Most Golden Knights fans are in agreement that Pietrangelo became Vegas’ most impactful player since last postseason. The former captain led his new team in postseason time on ice, shots, power play points, and is second in total points behind William Karlsson. In 31 appearances this season, the Golden Knights are 13-4 when the defenseman registers a point. Since the postseason, much of Vegas’ offense flows through the experienced defenseman.

To be fair to the critics, Pietrangelo is frequently on the ice for goals scored by the opposition, but it’s inevitable when he skates 25+ minutes per game. The alternate captain has been on the ice for 32 even-strengthened goals which is 9th worst in the NHL. However, Pietrangelo is 4th best in the league for being on the ice when his team scores. You know which Golden Knight follows Pietrangelo in those columns? You guessed it, Stephenson.

On Ice Even-Strength Goals For

  1. Pietrangelo 38
  2. Stephenson 38
  3. Hague 37
  4. Theodore 31
  5. Smith 29

On Ice Even-Strength Goals Against

  1. Pietrangelo 32
  2. Stephenson 28
  3. Hague 28
  4. Smith 25
  5. Marchessault 25

I understand deep stats overwhelmingly disregard the 31-year-old’s impact so this comes down to a simple eye test. Pietrangelo is more indispensable.

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