PREVIEW: St. Louis Blues looking to close gap on division-leading Vegas Golden Knights

Mar 21, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Vegas Golden Knights left wing Tomas Nosek (92) plays for the puck against Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Roy (3) during the third period at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After having their five-game win streak snapped Sunday afternoon by the Los Angeles Kings, the Vegas Golden Knights return home to Las Vegas for a Monday night contest against the St. Louis Blues.

It will be the third game in four days for the West Division-leading Golden Knights, who split their road back-to-back with the Kings, winning 4-2 on Friday night before dropping a 3-1 decision on Sunday.

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The loss to Los Angeles was just the third in the last 14 games for Vegas, which still holds a three-point lead over Colorado in the West. The Golden Knights then travel to Denver to play the red-hot Avalanche, who have won six in a row, in a key back-to-back on Thursday and Saturday.

“You just try and turn the page quickly,” said Vegas forward Reilly Smith. “We play so many games in a short period of time. You’re not going to win them all, but you can’t let one game turn into two or three.”

The big question is will the Golden Knights have leading goal scorer Max Pacioretty back for Monday’s contest.

Pacioretty, who scored two goals in Friday night’s victory and has scored four goals over his last four games, missed Sunday’s loss with a lower-body injury after getting hit near his left ankle with a shot at the end of Friday’s contest.

“We miss him,” said Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer. “He’s our leading goal scorer. And we miss (defenseman Alex) Pietrangelo too. Those are two keys for us.”

“You take 16 goals out of our lineup and it’s not easy, but we’re not the only team going through injuries,” said Vegas forward Mark Stone. “With the condensed schedule, guys are going to miss a game or two here and there. Guys have to step up. You can’t just have one or two guys going every night.”

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The Golden Knights, despite firing 42 shots Sunday, looked like they might get shut out for the third time this season before Tomas Nosek scored with 3:27 remaining on a rebound that hit him in the waist and bounced into the net. Vegas failed to score earlier in the period despite having a 5-on-3 power play for 91 seconds.

“I think we had tons of looks,” Stone said. “Just got to find ways to score goals. It’s the NHL. The opponent you’re playing against is good every single night. The best teams consistently find ways to produce. We didn’t do that tonight.”

St. Louis comes in off a road sweep of San Jose, winning 2-1 in a shootout on Friday followed by a 5-2 victory on Saturday. The Blues have the best road record in the NHL (12-3-2), which includes a 5-4 shootout victory at Vegas on Jan. 26.

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Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron each had a goal and three assists in Saturday’s win over the Sharks, but the Blues announced before the game that center Oscar Sundqvist will miss the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during a collision with teammate Kyle Clifford in Friday night’s win. Forward Zach Sanford also is sidelined after being placed on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list.

The Blues moved into a tie with third-place Minnesota with 37 points with Saturday’s win and could close to within four points of the Golden Knights with a victory on Monday night.

“I think a big win (Friday) night gave us a little bit more confidence in our game,” said O’Reilly. “I think we kinda knew we were gonna find a way to win (Saturday). It’s just something that we needed. We needed a big win to kinda get going a bit, spark us. Yeah, it was good. We gotta keep going.”

–Field Level Media