Capitals Visit Vegas for First Date With Golden Knights

The Washington Capitals will visit the Vegas Golden Knights for the first-ever meeting between the two teams on Saturday. The game will be the last for each team before the Christmas break. 

Washington Capitals

The Capitals will wrap up a three-game road trip on Saturday in Vegas. They will also finish up their set of back-to-backs. Washington dropped their contest on Friday to the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 in overtime.

Washington will be looking to rebound from a rough outing in Glendale. They had only 17 shots and had a 2-1 lead with 61 seconds left until the Coyotes tied the game to send it into overtime. In the extra frame, Washington had a single shot on goal to the Coyotes’ five. Arizona won the game on a shot by rookie Clayton Keller.

Despite the loss, Washington managed to get a point which boosted them into sole position of the Metropolitan Division with 46 points. They enter Saturday a point ahead of the New Jersey Devils, who have two games in hand on the Caps, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have played the same number of games. New Jersey hosts Chicago and Columbus meets Philadelphia at home tonight.

The Capitals enter Saturday 8-1-1 in their past 10 games and have earned points in five straight.

Braden Holtby will get the net for Washington on Saturday after getting the night off in Arizona. Holtby has a 20-7-0 record, a .919 save percentage and a 2.64 goals against average.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights will conclude a five-game homestand, all against Eastern Conference opponents, on Saturday against Washington. They have won all but one, dropping a contest to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout to open the homestand. Since then, they’ve beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Vegas was last in action on Tuesday, when they knocked off the Lightning in a thriller. After trailing by two after 20 minutes, the Golden Knights struck for three unanswered goals. Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman tied the game with 3:52 left in regulation. Just about to go to overtime, defenseman Shea Theodore, who Vegas acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks in the expansion draft, scored from the point with 2.3 seconds left to take a point away from the league’s top team.

The Golden Knights boast the league’s best home record at 14-2-2. They have been the league’s biggest surprise, going 22-9-2 through their first 33 games as an expansion team.

The Golden Knights made a lot of trades during the expansion draft to build for the future. They may not have taken the best players available from every team, but the chemistry of the team is what makes them a top team.

After scoring 30 goals with the Panthers last season, Jonathan Marchessault leads the Vegas Golden Knights with 12 goals and 31 points through 30 games. They have five players with 25+ points and center Erik Haula, who was selected as Vegas’ expansion draft pick from the Minnesota Wild, is one point shy from that mark.

James Neal leads the Golden Knights in goals with 17 and he has 27 points this season, which is tied with center William Karlsson, the Golden Knights’ expansion draft pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets for second on the team. He has 10 goals and 15 points in 18 career games against Washington. Neal was the Golden Knights’ expansion draft pick from the Nashville Predators.

Nate Schmidt will face his former team for the first time. He was selected as Vegas’ pick from Washington in the expansion draft. He has the second-best +/- among Golden Knights defensemen with a +8 rating. On the season, Schmidt has two goals and 15 points through 33 games this season. He is one goal and two points shy of his career high in each category both set in Washington last season.

Marc-Andre Fleury will face the Capitals for the first time since shutting them out in Game 7 with the Pittsburgh Penguins in last year’s second-round series. He made 29 saves in Game 7 against Washington and had a 1.72 goals against average and a .918 save percentage in the series. He was selected as the Golden Knights’ pick from the expansion draft after Matt Murray took over the crease for Pittsburgh in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and all of last season. Fleury missed two months with a concussion this season but is 5-1-1 with a .932 save percentage and a 2.25 goals against average. During his career with Pittsburgh, he went 20-12-2 against Washington with a .917 save percentage and a 2.60 goals against average.

Skate Shavings 

-With a victory tonight, Barry Trotz can tie Lindy Ruff for the fifth most wins by a head coach in NHL history with 736.

-The Capitals are 5-3-1 all-time against an expansion team.

-With a goal and an assist last night against Arizona, Evgeny Kuznetsov leads the team with 38 points. He notched his 12th goal of the year in the loss.

-The Capitals are 9-6-1 in 16 games against the Western Conference this season, including  5-4-1 against the Pacific Division.

A Look Back in Time

Alex Ovechkin scored his 1000th point and two goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 11 last season. Marc-Andre Fleury was in net against the Capitals that night. Justin Williams, Nicklas Backstrom, and Lars Eller also tallied goals in the win. Backstrom and T.J. Oshie had three assists each. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 29 shots for the Penguins.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was seeing T.J. Oshie's hat-trick​ during Game 1 of the Caps' second round playoff series against Pittsburgh in 2016. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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