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Hot Knights take on Sabres as Jack Eichel faces former team

Sportsnaut
Mar 10, 2022; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (9) goes after a loose puck during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights will try and complete a sweep of their five-game eastern road trip on Thursday night when they face the slumping Buffalo Sabres.

The Golden Knights, who lead the NHL with 12 wins and 24 points, have won eight in a row, including a 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory at Toronto on Tuesday. Reilly Smith led the way, scoring a short-handed goal midway through the third period to tie it and then added the game-winner on a breakaway off a Shea Theodore pass 23 seconds into OT.

Vegas started the 10-day trip with a 3-2 overtime win at Washington and followed that up with a 5-4 victory at Ottawa and a 6-4 win at Montreal.

“We’re enjoying every minute of it,” Smith said. “It’s tough to go on the road for a really long time, but I think we’re doing a good job being with each other, having fun, and experiencing this tough part of the season all together. Kind of rolling with the punches and finding ways to win games.”

Vegas improved to 7-1-0 on the road this season, the best mark in the NHL. The Golden Knights also are just two wins from matching their franchise-record win streak of 10 games set in April 2021.

“Road trips, they can be tough,” Smith said. “A lot of times you’re looking just to balance out and be at .500. We got off to a good start and we’re just trying to keep that going.”

Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said he has been impressed with his team’s character so far, especially when it comes to registering comeback victories.

“We’re resilient for sure,” Cassidy said. “We’re learning how to win hockey games when we’re not at our best, and tonight (Tuesday) was a good example of that. We had some pockets of the game that we needed to be better, but we (have) stayed in most games this year and found a way to win a lot of them to be honest with you. In other games, we’ve been really good and deserved to win.”

Thursday’s game will mark the second time that Vegas forward Jack Eichel, who scored a goal in the second period Tuesday to extend his point streak to six games, has returned to Buffalo since his trade to the Golden Knights. The deal came after a bitter falling out with Sabres management over Eichel’s desire to undergo disc replacement surgery in his neck.

“Things are going well for me. I’m feeling good again,” Eichel told the Buffalo News. “I think that’s probably one of the reasons I probably argued as much as I did for the surgery I desired. I just felt like that was my best chance to get back to as close to full health as possible. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you don’t get surgery and things go back. It takes time. So I felt like I had a pretty good summer and I feel pretty good.”

Buffalo comes into the contest having following a three-game win streak with a three-game losing skid, including a 4-1 home loss to Arizona on Tuesday.

Buffalo has been outscored 14-7 in the three games and allowed four or more goals in each.

“Their first three goals went off of us, and don’t be fooled by that,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We didn’t play hard enough in the areas we need to play hard. We were too slow. We hit goal posts. … The bottom line is we could have won a game but we didn’t go attack a game like we needed to do.”

–Field Level Media