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November 24, 2017

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Week Ahead: Golden Knights dive into divisional play

Updated Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 | 12:40 p.m.

The Golden Knights got a much-needed boost returning to Las Vegas after a tough six-game road trip, winning 5-2 against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday at T-Mobile Arena.

The team followed it up with two days off the ice to recuperate before they head right back on the road for a pair of games in Canada. Here’s a look at the week ahead for the Golden Knights.

Knights dive into divisional play

Through 16 games, the Golden Knights have only played one divisional opponent: The Arizona Coyotes who they beat 2-1 in overtime on Oct. 7 and 5-2 on Oct. 10. With NHL’s division-heavy schedule, teams play 29 divisional games each season (35 percent of the schedule).

That means the Golden Knights have some catching up to do, and it starts this week. Vegas’ next six games are within the Pacific Division, including all three of this week’s contests.

The Golden Knights will make their first regular season trips to Edmonton and Vancouver before hosting the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. If Vegas can continue its hot start into divisional play, it would go a long way toward staying in the playoff chase later into the season.

As it stands now the Golden Knights are still second in the Pacific Division with 21 points. They are three points behind the Kings and three ahead of the three teams tied for third — San Jose, Calgary and Vancouver.

With 66 games to go it’s too early to be counting points, but every divisional win looms large when April rolls around.

First look at McDavid

The first in the Golden Knights string of divisional matchups is a date with the Oilers in Edmonton this Tuesday. That means the Golden Knights will get their first look at defending Hart Memorial Trophy-winner Connor McDavid.

“When McDavid goes there aren’t many defensemen that can stop him when he’s got some open ice,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “So we will try to take his time and space away, and that’s what every team tries to do.”

McDavid isn’t off to the best start. The 20-year-old has only seven goals this season, and has only scored four times in 15 games since his opening-night hat trick. Still, he’s good for at least one highlight reel pass per night and has 12 assists this season.

Goalie injury watch

Rookie goaltender Maxime Lagace had the best performance of his career in Friday night’s 5-2 win over Winnipeg. He remains the starter heading into the week, but the Golden Knights’ three injured netminders may be nearing a return.

Marc-Andre Fleury was spotted working out on the ice at City National Arena on Wednesday but hasn’t been cleared from the concussion he suffered on Oct. 13 according to general manager George McPhee, and will not travel with the team on the road trip. Fleury was 3-1-0 with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage prior to the injury.

Malcolm Subban, who suffered a lower-body injury on Oct. 21, was seen skating at the practice facility on Sunday and Monday. The Golden Knights originally expected Subban to miss approximately four weeks, which would put his tentative return at Nov. 22 in San Jose. Gallant said Subban will travel with the team to Edmonton and Vancouver.

The 23-year-old rookie was 2-0-0 with a 2.06 goals against average and .936 save percentage before the injury.

Finally, Oscar Dansk could be nearing a return as well. The 23-year-old who was called up from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League when Fleury and Subban went down, suffered an injury of his own on Oct. 30.

Dansk also suffered a lower body injury and the original prognosis from the Golden Knights was that he would miss the rest of the road trip, which ended on Nov. 7. Dansk still hasn’t been cleared to play as of now. He was 3-0-0 with a 1.78 goals against average and .946 save percentage before his injury.

Schedule

Nov. 14 at Edmonton Oilers, 6 p.m.

Nov. 16 at Vancouver Canucks, 7 p.m.

Nov. 19 vs. Los Angeles Kings, 5 p.m.

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