Golden Knights face struggling Blackhawks
LAS VEGAS -- It has been a storybook season so far for the Vegas Golden Knights, who seemingly break another record for an NHL expansion team every time they take the ice.
But heading into Tuesday night's game with the Chicago Blackhawks at T-Mobile Arena, the Golden Knights find themselves on the heels of a milestone they'd just as soon forget.
Vegas comes in off a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night. That defeat marked the first time the Western Conference-leading Golden Knights (36-15-4, 76 points) have lost back-to-back home games all season.
Gerard Gallant's squad, which holds an eight-point lead over San Jose in the Pacific Division, still is an impressive 19-4-2 at home this year. So, there's no need to push the panic button ... yet.
"We know everybody's trying to get into the playoffs or stay in the playoffs," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "Right now, we're in good shape. We're all aware where we are (in the standings) but we just can't sit back. We've got to keep chasing these points night after night."
The game with the Blackhawks is the second of a season-long seven-game homestand for Vegas. The Golden Knights are 2-0 against Chicago, defeating them 4-2 at T-Mobile on Oct. 24 and 5-4 in Chicago on Jan. 5.
"They're a hungry team," Gallant said. "They've got a lot of talent and a lot of skill, and they play a fast game."
When Gallant says the Blackhawks are a hungry team, he isn't kidding.
Chicago (24-24-8, 56) is in last place in the Central Division and brings in a six-game losing streak (0-5-1) after a 6-1 drubbing by the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night, the team's longest losing streak this season and also the longest since a nine-game losing streak in 2012.
The Blackhawks, who actually heard a loud round of boos leaving the ice after the second period from their fans who made the trip to sunny Glendale, Ariz., outshot the Coyotes, 38-22, but still got blown out by an Arizona team with the worst record in the NHL.
"I think there's some compete at times but I think the consistency of the energy and urgency and the purpose ... sometimes it looks like it's an almost getting there, or an almost block, or an almost clear, or an almost completed rebound," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said afterward. "Those almosts can turn into getting the job done. That's the difference ... finding a way to get it done."
There was some potentially good news for the Blackhawks. All-Star goaltender Corey Crawford practiced before Monday's game for the first time since being placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 with a concussion.
Chicago was 17-13-5 and just a point out of the second wild-card spot before Crawford (16-9-2, 2.27 goals-against, .929 save percentage) was put on the IR.
"It takes some time, I guess, to see shots and stuff," Crawford told a media gathering after the practice. "It's a process right now to go through everything and get to a point where I can get into a game. It's still looking good. ... I want to get back playing."
So what's the timeline for Crawford's return?
"It's still too early to say," said Quenneville.
Updated February 13, 2018