Embattled Knights face tough challenge vs. undefeated Oilers

Embattled Knights face tough challenge vs. undefeated Oilers

The NHL season is just over a week old, but the Vegas Golden Knights already are in a surprising position.

As they prepare to play host to the unbeaten Edmonton Oilers on Friday, they sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings — and that’s not their only issue.

The Golden Knights opened the season with a victory over the expansion Seattle Kraken, but they have since lost two consecutive games — the latest a 3-1 defeat to the visiting St. Louis Blues on Wednesday — and also are battling an early-season injury wave.

Not only are the Golden Knights without top-line forwards Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty as well as Alex Tuch, but defenseman Alec Martinez got hurt in the third period Wednesday.

Vegas summoned defenseman Daniil Miromanov from the AHL, and he may make his NHL debut. Miromanov, who had a strong preseason, has collected two goals and four points in two games with the Henderson Silver Knights.

Fortunately, for Vegas there may be some good news. Forward Mattias Janmark skated with the team on Thursday for the first time since entering COVID-19 protocol on Oct. 11.

“He literally has done nothing for 10 to 11 days other than what he can do at home,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “It’ll be interesting to see how he feels. … We could sure use him.”

Right now, the Golden Knights are struggling on defense as much as they are on offense, but they could use anybody who can light the lamp. Vegas has scored just seven goals in three games, far below exceptions for a team pegged to be the best in the division.

“You’ve just got to regroup and find a way,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “Obviously, our two good scorers are out. Trying to just play well defensively and keep those games tight.”

Life won’t get any easier Friday with the high-octane Oilers coming to town.

The Oilers have won all four games, including a 5-1 road win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

To no one’s surprise, Edmonton is being led by Connor McDavid. Last season’s leading point scorer has not only hit the scoresheet in all four games, but he has at least two points in each of them. McDavid has racked up six goals and five assists for an NHL-leading 11 points.

He reached the 200-goal mark in Arizona, the same week Leon Draisaitl hit that milestone.

“We’ve kind of come up together and grown up together,” McDavid said. “To be going through this whole thing together, it’s fun. It’s special.”

The Oilers are succeeding because their offensive attack doesn’t end there. The third line of Warren Foegele, Derek Ryan and Zack Kassian has been a factor in every game, while newcomer Zach Hyman — who signed via free agency in the offseason — has provided second-line offensive punch while skating mainly with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Hyman scored both on the power play and while short-handed against the Coyotes.

“I think it was the first time I’ve done that. It’s great to contribute,” Hyman said. “Short-handed, you’re just trying to kill a penalty, and luckily we got a break there.”

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