Vegas coach Peter DeBoer says he isn’t going to push the panic button over his team’s recent home ice woes heading into Tuesday night’s game with the Toronto Maple Leafs in Las Vegas.
The Golden Knights have dropped three of their last four games at T-Mobile Arena, including a 2-1 loss to the struggling Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. The Pacific Division leaders, who went 21-5-2 at home last season, are just 12-9-1 at home this season. Only the expansion Seattle Kraken (6-11-2) have more home losses in the Pacific.
Vegas opened its current eight-game home stretch with a 3-1 victory over Anaheim on New Year’s Eve but followed that up with back-to-back losses to Winnipeg (5-4 in overtime) and Nashville (3-2). The Golden Knights then defeated the New York Rangers, 5-1, before falling to Chicago as Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 of 31 shots in his first game in Las Vegas since being traded to the Blackhawks last July.
“For me, we’ve got to get our energy levels back up,” DeBoer said. “I think we ran a little dry (Saturday) night. The disappointing games for me were the Nashville game and (Saturday). But I’m not pressing the panic button. When you look at our record over the last six or seven or eight weeks, we’ve played some really good hockey.”
Vegas, which started the season with four losses in five games and has played a large chunk of the season without first-line forwards Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, still holds a two-point first-place lead over Anaheim in the Pacific thanks in part to an 11-5-0 road record.
“I think it’s matter of getting guys healthy,” DeBoer said. “We’ve had some guys come back from the COVID list. I think they’re still feeling the effects. I like the group. For me, if we stick with what we’re doing, we’re going to win enough games that it’s not going to be a problem.”
Defenseman Alec Martinez, back practicing in non-contact drills after taking a skate in the face in a Nov. 11 game against Minnesota, is the latest Golden Knight to go into COVID-19 protocol.
Toronto comes into Tuesday’s game off a 5-4 overtime loss at Colorado on Saturday during which the Maple Leafs blew a 4-1 second-period lead. Auston Matthews scored two goals in the loss and is tied for third in the NHL with Anaheim’s Troy Terry with 22 goals, four behind Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl.
The loss to the Avalanche snapped a four-game winning streak for the Maple Leafs, who have the third-best win percentage (.712) in the league behind Carolina (.758) and Florida (.729). Toronto has the same amount of points (47) as Vegas despite playing five fewer games.
Like DeBoer, Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe wasn’t too worried after the loss at Colorado, which extended its home win streak to 11 games with the comeback win.
“I take nothing but positives out of this game,” Keefe said. “All things considered, the team we were playing … they’re rolling. It’s a tough building to play in. … Would we like to get two points? Absolutely. Should we have had two points? Absolutely, but that’s a very good team and to come in (there) and get a point is huge for this group.”
The game with Vegas is the front end of a back-to-back for the Maple Leafs, who are scheduled to play at Arizona on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media