The Vegas Golden Knights will try to end their uncharacteristic struggles on home ice when they host the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday.
Through two months of the season, Vegas leads the Western Conference due mostly to its outstanding 12-2-1 record in road games. At home, the Golden Knights are only 7-6-0 following Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers.
“(Home) games like (Wednesday) — on the road, we would’ve found a way to stay in it,” Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I’ll say this: On the road, we’ve got the lead almost all the time, and that’s the difference right there. You’re playing a different game, the other team starts pressing … Our game management is better on the road.”
The Knights and Rangers were tied until 5:59 of the third period, when New York suddenly exploded for four goals within the next six minutes. Two of those scores came on the power play, continuing Vegas’ recent struggles on the penalty kill. Over the Golden Knights’ last six games, opponents are 8-for-23 on the power play.
Home-ice advantage has traditionally been a backbone of Vegas’ success. The Golden Knights posted a 118-53-17 home record over their first five seasons. Their 253 home points were the seventh-highest of any NHL team in that span.
If the Golden Knights are to get on track in their own building, Philadelphia might be an ideal opponent. The Flyers are only 1-4-4 in their last nine road games and 3-5-4 on the road for the season.
Success either home or away had been hard to come by for the Flyers, who are 2-10-3 in their past 15 games. Their most recent defeat came Wednesday when the Washington Capitals collected a 4-1 victory in Philadelphia.
The Flyers are among the league leaders in penalty minutes and penalties taken, and Wednesday’s game continued the trend. Philadelphia had 18 penalty minutes against the Capitals, and T.J. Oshie’s game-tying goal for the Capitals came on a power play.
“The major thing is the amount of penalties we took,” said Kevin Hayes, who scored the Flyers’ only goal. “It doesn’t allow our team to get into the game. Four lines aren’t really going and when you take that many penalties it’s going to cost you, and it ultimately did.”
By contrast, the Golden Knights are among the NHL’s least-penalized teams. Vegas has been whistled for only 197 penalty minutes over 87 penalties taken in 28 games.
Hayes has 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) this season, leading the Flyers in both assists and points.
Cam Atkinson has been practicing with the Flyers and could possibly make his return Friday. Atkinson has yet to play this season due to an upper-body injury.
Carter Hart has started Philadelphia’s last five games and will probably be in net again to face Vegas. While Hart hasn’t gotten much help from his defense, his struggles have mirrored the Flyers’ struggles, as Hart has a 3.44 goals-against average in his last 10 games.
With the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins coming to Vegas on Sunday, the Golden Knights could save regular goaltender Logan Thompson for the tougher competition. Backup goalie Adin Hill has been very solid in part-time action, with a 6-2-1 record and 2.55 GAA in nine starts.
–Field Level Media