The Vegas Golden Knights have seen their Pacific Division lead dwindle to two points over the Los Angeles Kings and four points over the red-hot Seattle Kraken heading into a Saturday night game against the Edmonton Oilers in Las Vegas.
Now the Golden Knights will attempt to slow the NHL’s best one-two punch, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, without the services of captain Mark Stone.
Stone, second on the team in both goals (17) and points (38), left the Golden Knights’ 4-2 victory over the visiting Florida Panthers on Thursday during the first period with what coach Bruce Cassidy called an upper-body injury.
“He’s still getting some tests done so he won’t play (against Edmonton),” Cassidy said following practice on Friday. “We’ll put him as week-to-week for now and see where he’s at once he gets back on the ice.”
Stone was sidelined for 45 games last season due to a back ailment that eventually prompted offseason surgery. Cassidy wouldn’t say whether Stone re-injured his back, merely confirming that it was an upper-body injury.
“It’s tough to see your captain go down in the first period,” Vegas center Jack Eichel said. “Everyone here knows what he means to our group both on and off the ice, but other guys stepped up.”
Eichel, for one. He ignited a three-goal third period with his 15th of the season to tie the game 2-2. William Carrier scored the game-winner with 2:36 remaining, and William Karlsson sealed it with a power-play empty-netter, just his second goal in 19 games, both empty-netters.
“It was a competitive game,” Eichel said. “It was intense. It was physical. Both teams brought it tonight. Credit to our group, we stuck with it.”
Edmonton will be playing the second half of a back-to-back set that began with a 7-1 road victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday. It also will be the Oilers’ third road contest in four nights.
The Oilers, who are tied for fourth in the Pacific Division, are 13-7-1 on the road this season and can close to within seven points of the Golden Knights with a victory.
McDavid, who leads the NHL in scoring (82 points), goals (37) and assists (45), celebrated his 26th birthday with two goals and an assist in the win at San Jose. Draisaitl, who is second in the league with 66 points, added his 24th goal to go along with two assists, and teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also had a goal and two helpers.
The victory over the Sharks came on the heels of a 6-2 win at Anaheim on Wednesday in which McDavid finished with a goal and an assist and Draisaitl also scored a goal.
“We certainly need to keep building on our game,” McDavid said after the Friday victory. “Two good ones in a row. … Another test is (Saturday) night playing against a good Vegas team and trying to make up some ground as well. A big one.”
A win over the Golden Knights could be the difference between a good trip that started with a 6-3 defeat to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday and a terrific trip.
“Yeah, that’s obviously a good team over there,” Nugent-Hopkins said of Vegas. “I think coming (in on a) back-to-back can help us. We seem to play a little simpler and rely more on our work. I think that’s going to be our mindset (Saturday). We’re going to need a good start.”
The contest will be the second meeting between the teams this season. The Oilers won the first one 4-3 on a McDavid goal 1:17 into overtime in Edmonton on Nov. 19. Draisaitl and McDavid each had a goal and an assist in that contest, while Stone scored twice for the Golden Knights.
–Field Level Media