Two teams in playoff position are going head-to-head Thursday night in an NHL inter-conference battle in Long Island. The Vegas Golden Knights (15-11-4, third in Pacific) visit the New York Islanders (18-6-2, second in Metropolitan) in one of the best games on Thursday night’s NHL schedule. Vegas is coming in riding a four-game winning streak, while New York is hoping to get back on track following a loss on Tuesday.
Here is a preview for Thursday night’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By the Numbers
Let’s start with the Golden Knights, a team that has been incredibly streaky for the last month. Vegas ranks 17th in the league with 2.93 goals per game on just 8.8 percent shooting. However, they’re seventh in both shots on goal with 33.5 and in power-play percentage, where they’re converting 23.2 percent of the time with the man advantage.
Despite ranking 20th in shots allowed with 31.8, the Golden Knights are still 12th in goals allowed at 2.83, mainly due to strong goaltending. But they’ve also been very good on the penalty kill, fending off power plays 85.9 percent of the time, good for fourth in hockey.
The Islanders put together a huge 17-game point streak, which also featured a 10-game winning streak. They’ve cooled off a little since, dropping three of the last five games. Overall, New York is 19th in goals with 2.88 per game but does it on the league’s fewest shots per game with just 28. The Islanders’ power play ranks a modest 19th at 17.5 percent.
New York is picking up from where it left off last year as one of the better defensive teams in hockey. The Islanders rank third in goals allowed per game with 2.42 and rank 12th in shots allowed. They’re also 11th on the penalty kill, killing power plays at an 83.6 percent success rate.
Who To Watch
For the Knights, Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson are the leading scorers on the team, coming into Thursday night with 26 and 25 points, respectively. But the team’s hottest players are a pair of wingers; Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch. Marchessault recorded a hat trick on Tuesday and is riding a three-game point streak, while Tuch had three assists on Tuesday and two goals the day prior. Vegas would love for both of these players to continue their red-hot play Thursday against one of the league’s best teams.
The Islanders are led by young phenom Mathew Barzal. The 2017-18 Calder Trophy winner has 24 points on the year, including points in three straight games. The veteran Brock Nelson isn’t too far behind Barzal, coming in with 20 points. Both Anders Lee and Josh Bailey have some momentum going for New York as well, with Lee getting points in two of his last three games after a slow start to the season and Bailey earning an assist in three straight contests. The Islanders need a complete effort to beat one of the NHL’s hottest teams.
After missing a bit of time due to a personal matter, All-Star Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to be in net for Vegas. Fleury is 11-6-2 with a 2.54 GAA and .919 save percentage.
New York will likely counter with Semyon Varlamov, who has been sharp in his first year in New York, going 8-3-2 with a 2.39 GAA and .922 save percentage.
Odds And Pick
In perhaps the most evenly-matched game on the schedule Thursday, the Islanders are slight favorites at home, listed at -120. I’m also leaning with the Islanders in this one. New York has scuffled of late, but it is ready to bounce back at home where it plays its best. Expect Varlamov to have a great game and for the Islanders -120 to take the victory.