The Golden Knights will welcome a pair of familiar faces Saturday for an important Western Conference clash.
The team will face Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Reaves and the Minnesota Wild at 7 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena. It’s the first of two straight meetings for the Knights with Minnesota, which is two points behind them in the conference standings. The Wild can also clinch a playoff spot with a win Saturday.
The Knights will need to do well in the two-game series if they hope to get home-ice advantage on their side of the bracket. Fleury is expect to start for the Wild, who have won three straight and are 5-0-1 in their last six despite being without star left wing Kirill Kaprizov.
“They lose their leading scorer and sometimes that can go either way,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “For them, it’s allowed an opportunity for other people to step up and take those minutes, and they have.”
The Wild and the Knights have been two of the NHL’s best teams since the All-Star break. Minnesota has the NHL’s fourth-best record at 17-5-5. The Knights are second-best behind only the Boston Bruins at 17-4-3.
One of the Wild’s only slip-ups came against the Knights. Minnesota lost 5-1 at home to the Knights on Feb. 9 in the only meeting between the teams this season.
Minnesota’s recent hot stretch includes a 7-1-2 run without Kaprizov, who has 74 points in 65 games. Second-year right wing Matt Boldy has excelled during that span with 15 points in 10 games. Trade acquisition Marcus Johansson has chipped in 11 points.
Fleury and goalie partner Filip Gustavsson have also given the Wild a strong foundation. Fleury is 8-1-1 with a .929 save percentage since playing the Knights. Gustavsson is 9-1-4 with a .947 save percentage.
All those elements make Minnesota a difficult opponent for the Knights, who have lost two straight. Any more dropped points will allow other teams to catch them in the standings.
“After the All-Star break, both us and the Wild have been on some runs,” left wing Brett Howden said. “They’ve been playing really well. They’re missing a key player, but we’re missing a few as well. I think these are two big games for us. It’s a good measuring stick to see how it plays out here. We’re excited for it.”
Goaltender Laurent Brossoit is expected to make his second straight start with the Knights. Center Teddy Blueger will rejoin the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Thursday’s loss in San Jose. Rookie right wing Pavel Dorofeyev will be a healthy scratch as a result.
Knights vs. Wild (7 p.m.)
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KKGK (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Knights -110, total 6
Knights record: 46-22-7
Wild record: 44-22-9
Head-to-head: Knights 1-0-0
Knights’ projected lineup:
Ivan Barbashev — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault
Paul Cotter — William Karlsson — Nicolas Roy
Michael Amadio — Chandler Stephenson — Phil Kessel
Brett Howden — Teddy Blueger — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Ben Hutton — Nic Hague
Brayden McNabb — Zach Whitecloud