The two newest NHL teams meet on Saturday as the Seattle Kraken travel to T-Mobile Arena to face-off against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Both Pacific Division teams missed the playoffs last season, Vegas in a large part due to injuries and Seattle because their goaltending was well below par, but with those problems seemingly rectified, each team has enjoyed a much-improved start to the new campaign.
Vegas (16-4-1) lead the division and are -250 to remain top. The Kraken are second (11-5-3) and +550 to win the division. The Golden Knights have won their last two and are 7-2-1 in their past ten while the Kraken are on a three-game winning streak and are 8-1-1 in their previous ten.
Seattle are +167 to be victorious on Saturday and Vegas -192.
What: Seattle Kraken @ Vegas Golden Knights
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Paradise, Nevada
When: 17:00 PT, Saturday 26th November
Odds: SEA Kraken +167, VGS Golden Knights -192
The Golden Knights missed out on the playoffs for the first time in their five-year history last season (43-31-8) but had the excuse of 505 man-games lost due to injury which was by far the highest in the NHL.
For long stretches Vegas were without several key players and it cost them dear, but with the likes of Captain Mark Stone and Jack Eichel healthy and back performing to their world-class best, the Golden Knights have quickly proven last season was a blip in their pursuit to bring a championship to Vegas (+650 to win the Stanley Cup).
26-year-old Eichel leads the Golden Knights with 26 points (11 goals, 15 assists) in 21 games while Stone, 30, sits fourth on the team with 18 (nine goals, nine assists).
The only injury concern Vegas have had this season is in net where number-one Robin Lehner has been ruled out for the season.
But rookie Logan Thompson has shrugged off any concerns over his ability to carry the load posting a 11-3-0 record, .925 save percentage and 2.30 goals-against-average (GAA).
After the Golden Knights sensationally made the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season of 2018, expectations were set high for the Kraken following the 2021 expansion draft and their entry into the NHL.
After selecting one unprotected player from each NHL roster, except for Vegas, the Kraken finished second last in the league with a 27-49-6 record and -69 goal differential.
Surprisingly, in goal was the major let down as Phillip Grubauer had a torrid time and Chris Driedger was unable to help due to a severe ACL injury which required surgery.
30-year-old Grubauer showed no signs that his struggles were behind him posting a .860 save percentage and 3.77 GAA in four games to start the season, but he has since also been injured allowing off-season acquisition Martin Jones to take the net and he has provided much-needed stability.
Jones, 32, was signed from the Philadelphia Flyers on a one-year deal and in 16 games (15 starts) he has gone 10-4-2 with a .906 save percentage and 2.49 GAA, making the Kraken -140 to reach the playoffs this season.
The Golden Knights won the first of four meetings between the two 5-2 in mid-October, which was their fifth-straight victory over the Kraken since they entered the league.
On that night, Vegas won the special teams battle by scoring twice on the powerplay, compared to Seattle's one goal with the man advantage.
Since, the Kraken have jumped ahead of the Golden Knights in their success on the powerplay firing at 23.1% (11th in the NHL) compared to Vegas' 21% (18th).
The powerplay may prove a difference maker on Saturday as both teams have struggled on the penalty kill with Seattle 27th in the NHL at 73.8% and Vegas 22nd on 76%.
An area Vegas is likely to dominate is on face-offs with the Kraken last in the league with a 44.6% win rate and the Golden Knights 52.5%, which ranks eighth.
Seattle will enjoy home advantage where they have gone 6-4-2 but that won't bother the Golden Knights who are an excellent 9-1-1 on the road.
The Kraken's much-improved form has been helped by the addition of Stanley Cup Champion Andre Burakovsky, signed on a long-term contract from the Colorado Avalanche in the off-season.
The 27-year-old winger leads the Kraken with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) and his offensive output has been well supported by 10 players who have scored at least 10 points.
Kraken's first-round, second overall pick Matty Beniers has been particularly exciting and leads all rookies with 14 points (six goals, eight assists). The 20-year-old is +400 joint-favourite to win the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year, along with Vegas' goalie Thompson who is +400.
Like Seattle, Vegas has enjoyed good scoring depth with a matching 10 players with 10 points or more.
Sandwiched between Eichel and Stone for most points is superstar defenceman Alex Pietrangelo (21 points; three goals, 18 assists) and forward Chandler Stephenson (19 points; six goals, 13 assists) and each will need to be kept quiet for the Kraken to finally be victorious over their Pacific Division rivals.
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