Two Western Conference teams fighting for playoff spots will meet Tuesday in the desert, as the Vegas Golden Knights (18-13-5) host the Minnesota Wild (16-13-5). The Wild have won seven out of their last 10 to place them just outside of a Wild Card spot, while the Knights have also won seven of 10 and are one point away from first place in the division.
Here is a preview for Tuesday night’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
We’ll start with the Wild, whose three-game point streak was snapped on Sunday at Chicago. Minnesota is currently averaging 3.06 goals per game, 14th in the league.
While the Wild average the second-fewest shots per game with 28.5, they make up for it with the fifth-highest shooting percentage at 10.7. As far as special teams go, their power play has been average, coming in 17th at 18 percent.
On defense, Minnesota has struggled to keep pucks out of the net, ranking 28th in goals allowed with 3.26. The Wild also rank 16th in shots allowed with 31.5, while coming in with the 24th-ranked penalty kill at 77.8 percent.
Meanwhile, the Golden Knights have secured points in two straight games as they aim for their third straight win at home. Vegas is averaging 2.94 goals per game, 18th in the league, despite averaging the fourth-most shots on goal with 33.9.
This is mainly due to their 8.7 shooting percentage, which comes in at 23rd. The Knights do boast a solid power play, converting at an eighth-best 22.5 percent.
Defensively, Vegas is 12th in goals allowed with 2.86, while also ranking 15th in shots allowed with 31.3. The Golden Knights also have a top-10 penalty-kill unit, fending off power plays 83.3 percent of the time.
Who To Watch
Minnesota’s Eric Staal made history on Sunday against the Blackhawks and will look to build off of the momentum in this one. The long-time center scored a first-period power-play goal for the 1,000th point of his career.
Staal became the 89th player in NHL history and the seventh active player to reach that milestone. The 35-year-old is now up to 12 goals and 26 points on the season, including goals in each of the last three games.
Other players worth watching for the Wild in this one include Kevin Fiala and Ryan Suter. Fiala is coming off a two-goal game Sunday and has points in three of his last four contests, while the defenseman Suter has five assists in his last three games and 19 total helpers on the season.
The Golden Knights have been getting tons of production from Max Pacioretty. The veteran winger was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week on Monday after scoring a goal in four straight games. Among those games included a four-point effort against the Canucks and an overtime winner against the Stars. Overall, Pacioretty has 15 goals and 19 assists this season.
Look for Mark Stone and Shea Theodore to also play a role in Tuesday night’s contest. Stone, a linemate of Pacioretty’s, has six points over his last four games, while the defenseman Theodore has dished out five assists in the last two games.
Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk will dress and serve as backup Tuesday night for Alex Stalock. So far, Stalock is 9-4-2 with a 2.79 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
Vegas will counter with its main man in net, Marc-Andre Fleury, who is 13-7-2 with a 2.56 GAA and a .918 save percentage.
Odds And Pick
With the game in Vegas and the Knights playing well, it’s no surprise that they are sizable favorites Tuesday night, listed at -180. Ultimately, I believe the depth that Vegas possesses, along with its big advantages in special teams and in net, will give it the edge. Give me the Golden Knights -180 to make it three wins in a row.