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Hopeless Opus: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights Preview

The Blackhawks host the Golden Knights, who are 5-5-0 in their last 10 games.

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Chicago Blackhawks v Vegas Golden Knights
Seth Jones of the Chicago Blackhawks and Phil Kessel of the Vegas Golden Knights chase after the puck in NHL action
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights have already beaten the Chicago Blackhawks once this season, a 1-0 victory on Oct. 13 and the two teams meets again on Thursday night at the United Center.

Since then, the Golden Knights have remained atop the Pacific Division, although the team is currently experiencing a rough patch. Vegas is 5-5-0 in its last 10 games, holds just an eight-point lead over the Kraken (who have three games in hand) for the division lead and have now been struck by an injury bug.

Although the injuries are not quite as bad as last season, when injuries effectively eliminated the Golden Knights from contention, the Golden Knights are currently missing Jack Eichel (out with a lower body injury), Alex Pietrangelo (personal leave) and Shea Theodore (lower body).

That has eliminated three of the Golden Knights’ top scorers from the lineup. Eichel currently paces Vegas with 29 points in 27 games while playing much better than he did last season. Eichel also currently — at least analytically — is in contention for the Selke. Theodore has 22 points in 29 games while Pietrangelo has 21 in 23.

The Golden Knights still have Chandler Stephenson (27 points), Jonathan Marchessault (24) and Mark Stone (24) from their top-six scorers healthy. Goaltenders Logan Thompson and Adin Hill, who are taking care of the Vegas net in Robin Lehner’s absence, are also holding down the fort. Thompson is currently in Calder contention with a .917 save percentage and two shutouts — much more than the Golden Knights were likely expecting when Lehner was announced out for the season. Hill, playing backup with Laurent Brossoit sent to the Henderson Silver Knights, has a .907 save percentage for Vegas.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are second-last in the Western Conference and the entire NHL, ahead of only the Anaheim Ducks. Chicago is 1-8-1 in its last 10 games and do not have nearly the level of goaltending that Vegas. The Blackhawks’ offense (2.41 goals per game) also has not approached Vegas’s offense (3.29 per game).

The Blackhawks’ injury problems are much smaller than the Knights, with only backup goaltender Alex Stalock still sidelined by the concussion he sustained on Nov. 1. Patrick Kane still leads the team in scoring with 21 points in 27 games, while Max Domi has 20 points in 27 games.

The Blackhawks’ two current goaltenders, Petr Mrazek and Arvid Soderblom, have a .873 and .906 save percentage, respectively. If the Blackhawks want to win this game, they’re gonna need to get the better goaltending against an injury-depleted Knights roster.

[MORNING SKATE UPDATE] Soderblom is in net this evening, among other changes:

Tank time, Hawks.

Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Golden Knights

40.81% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 48.4% (24th)

40.53% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 52.41% (10th)

2.41 (30th) — Goals per game — 3.29 (13th)

3.67 (27th) — Goals against per game — 2.74 (7th)

56.6% (1st) — Faceoffs — 52.9% (7th)

23.8% (11th) — Power play — 23.6% (12th)

73.3% (25th) — Penalty kill — 73.4% (24th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Athanasiou — Domi — Kane

Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh

Lafferty — Dickinson — Blackwell

Khaira — Entwistle — Johnson

J. Johnson — S. Jones

Tinordi — Murphy

McCabe — Mitchell

Soderblom

Mrazek

Golden Knights

Cotter — Stephenson — Stone

Smith — Karlsson — Marchessault

Amadio — Leschyshyn — Kessel

Carrier — Roy — Kolesar

Martinez — Hague

McNabb — MIromanov

Hutton — Pachal

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV