Vegas center Jonathan Marchessault was asked if Wednesday night’s West Division showdown against the second-place Colorado Avalanche in Las Vegas is the team’s most important game of the season so far.
“One-hundred percent,” Marchessault said after the first-place Golden Knights completed practice Tuesday. “We’ve worked hard all year to put ourselves in a position that we can be the best team in the league. By winning (Wednesday’s) game, we could be the best team in the NHL in the standings. So it’s definitely the most important game, and we definitely have to show up.”
Vegas (34-11-2, 70 points) has won a franchise record nine straight games and holds a four-point lead over Colorado (31-11-4, 66 points) which comes in after not recording a point in consecutive games for just the second time this season.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said the team will be without leading goal scorer Mikko Rantanen, right wing Joonas Donskoi and No. 1 goaltender Philipp Grubauer until at least Friday’s home game against San Jose.
Colorado has a game in hand on Vegas and a softer schedule down the stretch with four games each against sixth-place San Jose and seventh-place Los Angeles. They also have a May 10 game at Vegas.
The Golden Knights, meanwhile, have nine games remaining. Besides the two contests with Colorado, Vegas has two games at third-place Minnesota, two at home against surging St. Louis, two against fifth-place Arizona and one at San Jose.
Vegas has cleaned up against the West Division bottom-feeders (Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose and Arizona) going a combined 25-4-0 against them. However, the Golden Knights are just 9-7-2 against Colorado, Minnesota and St. Louis, who are directly below them in the standings.
All nine victories during Vegas’ record win streak came against teams in the bottom half of the standings, including three against last-place Anaheim and two more each over the Kings and Sharks.
“It’s an impressive run,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. “I don’t care who you’re playing, to win nine in a row.
“We’ve done it all different ways, but the bottom line is I think our foundation has been really good every night which has given us a chance to win.”
DeBoer gave his team both Sunday and Monday off following Saturday night’s 5-1 win at Anaheim to give his team a chance to rest up for the stretch drive.
“We’re going to see teams that are really dialed into their game and games that really mean a lot,” said DeBoer. “We’re going to be playing for something here, hopefully with Colorado, right to the end of the season fighting for first place. I like the fact that we’re playing the top end of the division down the stretch. I think it’s going to get us playoff ready.”
Colorado comes in off a 4-1 loss at St. Louis on Monday night, falling behind 2-0 in the first period and 3-0 midway through the second period. Team captain Gabe Landeskog didn’t mince words about his team’s performance afterward.
“Our first period was dog (poop),” Landeskog said. “We were so bad. Pardon my language but I don’t know how else to explain it. We were bad in every single area in the first period.”
The slow start came on the heels of a 5-3 loss to the Blues on Saturday that saw Colorado blow a 2-0 lead. The last time the Avalanche did not gain a point in back-to-back games was Feb. 22-24 in losses to Vegas and Minnesota.
“It’s natural that you’re going to lose a couple (consecutive) games,” Bednar said. “It’s a positive that it hasn’t happened in a couple months, for sure.”
–Field Level Media
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