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NHL: Los Angeles Kings @ Vegas Golden Knights Preview

The top two teams in the Pacific Division go head-to-head on Sunday as the Los Angeles Kings travel to T-Mobile Arena to face-off against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Vegas (27-12-2) hold first place in the Pacific with 56 points from 41 games (.683 points per game percentage) while Los Angeles (22-14-6) have 50 points from 42 games (.595). 

The Golden Knights are 4/9 to keep hold of top spot and win the Pacific Division and the Kings are 11/2 to get ahead of them and finish first. 

What:Los Angeles Kings @ Vegas Golden Knights  
Where:T-Mobile Arena, Vegas
When:03:00, Sunday 8th January 
How to watch:NHL.com
Odds:Los Angeles Kings 7/5, Vegas Golden Knights 5/8 

Eichel a welcome return 

The Golden Knights received a major boost on Friday as top-line centreman Jack Eichel returned after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury. 

26-year-old Eichel had a goal and two assists in a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins which took his points tally to 32 (14 goals, 18 assists) in 28 games, which ranks third on the team. 

After missing eight games, centreman Paul Cotter also returned and scored his fifth goal of the season and eighth point in 23 games.

There is further good news for the Golden Knights as forward Jonathan Marchessault who has 14 goals, 13 assists in 35 games is expected to be back in the line-up against the Kings after missing the last six outings. 

Defenceman Alec Martinez is also said to be close to a return following four games on the sidelines but Shea Theodore and Zach Whitecloud remain on long-term injured reserve leaving Vegas short at the back.  

Copley the saviour 

The Kings have gone 7-2-1 over their past ten games, in large part due to the form of Pheonix Copley who has won nine of his past 11 starts while posting a .901 save percentage and 2.66 goals against average (GAA).  

30-year-old Copley was signed on a bargain one-year, $825,000 contract from the Washington Capitals in the off-season to play third fiddle to Cal Petersen ($5-million per-year) and Jonathan Quick ($5.8 million per-year).

However, with Petersen and Quick severely underperforming and the former being demoted to the AHL, Copley got the opportunity to play and has grabbed it with both hands, saving the Kings' season from near collapse.  

With Lehner ruled out for the season, the Golden Knights have also enjoyed a rescue act from 25-year-old Logan Thompson who is 7/1 to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year after performing well above his $766,667 per-year contract going 18-9-1 with a .915 save percentage and 2.61 GAA. 

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Arvidsson danger 

29-year-old Viktor Arvidsson was acquired by the by the Kings in the summer of 2021 following an uncharacteristic scoring slump. 

In Los Angeles, the competitive Swede has re-found his offensive form producing 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in 66 games last season and 30 points (ten goals, 20 assists) in 37 games so far this.

Sitting joint-second on the Kings for points, Arvidsson has been in terrific recent form with seven points (one goal, five assists) in his last five games. 

Of Arvidsson's 19 total assists, 17 have been primary which places him in the top five in the league.

He isn't the only threat that LA possess with recent All-Star nominee Kevin Fiala leading the team with 39 points (10 goals, 29 assists) and Gabriel Vilardi (16 goals) and Adrian Kempe (15 goals) being the main goal providers. 

The contribution of their top players has helped the Kings register 3.17 average goals per game (17th) and a powerplay of 23.3% (15th)

Vegas advantage 

Over the season so far, Vegas holds an advantage in all of the key stats heading into the fixture.  

Led by Chandler Stephenson (40; 11 goals, 29 assists) and Captain Mark Stone (38; 17 goals, 21 assists) for points and Reilly Smith in goals (18), the Golden Knights are averaging 3.32 goals per game (10th) and their powerplay is firing at 25.7% (seventh).

Vegas has conceded an average of 2.78 goals per game (11th) while the Kings, in large part due to their goaltending issues have conceded an average of 3.43 (24th). The Golden Knights also have a stronger penalty kill, keeping out 78.7% of opposition chances (16th) compared to Kings' 71.7% (28th). 

Season series 

The pair have already met twice this season, both times at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles where the Golden Knights won the campaign opener 3-4 before the Kings responded with a 4-2 victory just a couple of days after Christmas.  

In each game the Golden Knights were able to convert on the powerplay going 2/8 over the two games while the Kings went 0/5.  

Los Angeles gave up 51 shots compared to 30 in the first meeting, but the teams were far more evenly matched in the second contest, each having 25 attempts on goal. 

The Golden Knights will enjoy home ice advantage for the third meeting where they are 12-9-0 while the Kings are 10-7-4 on the road.

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