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Golden Knights Take on Kings

Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (9) skates between Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (8) and center Anze Kopitar (11) during the first period of an NHL hockey game at T-Mobile Arena Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023.

The past two months have been nothing like Jonathan Marchessault has ever experienced.

With the calendar turning to 2024, no one had played more games to this point than the Golden Knights. Through 38 games, not only did Vegas play 20 of them on the road, but played six back-to-back stints. Chances to rest were minimal and practice time was hardly existent.

The hectic schedule finally caught up to Vegas, entering the new year losers of six of its last eight games including a 3-0 loss in the Winter Classic to Seattle on Monday.

But the schedule may start to balance out soon for the Golden Knights. They begin a stretch of seven of their next eight games at T-Mobile Arena, starting tonight in a Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Florida Panthers (7 p.m., Vegas 34).

“It’ll be great, to be honest, to be in our bed a little bit more often,” Marchessault said.

Any sort of positive reinforcement would be good for the Golden Knights right now. A season where they started 11-0-1, one of the best runs ever for a defending champion, has gone sideways over the past two months with Vegas going 11-11-4 since then, and falling out of first place in the Pacific Division behind the Vancouver Canucks. The Knights trail the Los Angeles Kings in the division, as well, via points percentage.

Being on the road for as much as they’ve been, on top of how many games they’ve played, have limited the Golden Knights’ chances to work out the issues that have plagued them.

Right now, there’s a lot to correct.

Vegas has been outscored 33-22 in its last eight games, allowing at least three goals in all but one of them; the 3-2 win over Los Angeles on Dec. 28. Logan Thompson has lost four of his last six starts while posting an .866 save percentage and has given up nearly four goals per game (3.66).

Their once-dominant penalty kill has allowed nine power-play goals on 24 chances (37.5%) while going just 5 of 25 on the power play of their own.

Even at 5-on-5, where the Golden Knights dominated en route to winning the Stanley Cup last season, they’ve struggled in that department being outscored 22-16, with nine of those goals coming in the last three games.

“We have issues as a team,” Marchessault said. “We’ve got to get back to (playing well at 5-on-5), but it’s not just on our D, on the forwards, on the centers, on the wingers. It’s on us as a unit of five to get better, and I think we need to be more aware of those situations.”

This upcoming stretch might be the best barometer to judge where the Golden Knights are. After their marathon at home, they have a four-game road trip at New York, New Jersey and Detroit before the All-Star break.

As for what the next eight games look like, the strength of schedule isn’t exactly light. Six of the eight teams are in the top 15 in the standings. There are games against three of the league’s top four teams (Boston, New York Rangers, Colorado), along with Florida (9th) and the New York Islanders (11th). The games between the Avalanche and Bruins are a back-to-back; at Colorado on Jan. 10, home against the Bruins on Jan. 11.

And the Golden Knights will be tested early against the Panthers. Florida put 20 shots on rookie goalie Jiri Patera in the first period of their last meeting on Dec. 23, stayed above water long enough for a 2-1 lead heading into the third, before losing 4-2.

Also considering T-Mobile Arena is where the Panthers’ miraculous season ended last season, the Golden Knights are expecting the intensity to be cranked to 10.

“We’re not at our game right now,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We have to get back to building our game to where we’re playing our identity every night. That’s how I’m looking at this stretch. It starts tomorrow, and we should have lots of motivation.”

Cassidy said there are multiple factors in play as to why the Golden Knights have struggled. They’re missing three key players in the lineup, with the latest addition being William Karlsson as he misses these next two games with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Shea Theodore (upper body) and Adin Hill (lower body) don’t appear close to returning.

It could be a struggle in matching the opponent’s intensity, Cassidy said, especially with Vegas coming off a short offseason and having won last June.

“We’re trying to get back to where we’re excited to play every night and play the right way, and it’s a challenge,” Cassidy said. “We’re not the only team going through it, but that’s what we’re trying to do; get to our game on a regular basis for most of the game.”

The Golden Knights aren’t using the schedule as an excuse as to why their play has dipped recently, but the next few weeks could be the start of a turnaround.

Or it could go haywire.

“It’s a long season. You definitely don’t want to make any excuses for yourself or the group,” center Jack Eichel said. “We’re going to get every team’s best game every night and we’ve got to get ourselves back on track.”

Panthers vs. Golden Knights

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: Vegas 34

Livestream: Knighttime+

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9

Danny Webster can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Danny on X at

Article written by #LasVegasSun