William Carrier is expected to make his return to the lineup tonight after missing the previous five games. He will not, however, find his way back onto his usual line with Nic Roy and Keegan Kolesar. That spot is being filled by another recent returnee, Brett Howden.
Carrier is instead set to play on a line with Chandler Stephenson and Phil Kessel. Not only is this a new line for all three, but no pair of players on the line has played more than one game with each other this season. Stephenson and Kessel played with Michael Amadio a few games ago against the Dallas Stars, aside from that Carrier and Kessel have never been matched, nor have Carrier and Stephenson.
What makes this line interesting is the vastly different usage rates we’ve seen from each player on it. Carrier is tied with Kolesar in taking 29% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone, the fewest of any Golden Knights. Kessel on the other hand leads all forwards in offensive zone draws, seeing 60% of his dead-puck shifts beginning in the O-Zone. Stephenson lands closer to Kessel at 55%, but he has had plenty of games where the majority of his shifts start closer to his own goal, something that cannot be said for Kessel.
Based on previous usage it’s expected that Cassidy deploys the 4th line (Howden-Roy-Kolesar) in the defensive zone quite a bit tonight, it’s also probable he’ll use Eichel, Cotter, and Amadio heavily offensively. The Misfits can do either, but Cassidy has always preferred to try and pull offense out of them when together. So, where does that leave the newly formed 3rd line?