The Vegas Golden Knights have already qualified for the NHL playoffs, but their work isn’t done.
Vegas will take a franchise record-tying eight-game winning streak into Saturday night’s game at last-place Anaheim (14-26-7, 35 points) in need of yet another victory.
The Golden Knights (33-11-2, 68 points) maintain just a two-point lead over Colorado atop the West Division, with the Avalanche having two games in hand.
“Reaching that point where we are right now in the season, I think it’s good,” Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore said. “Going forward, we’ve got to focus on our game. We have to be ready for the situations that come down the stretch.
“That’s when you have to rev up and play your best game. It’s good that we’re in (the playoffs), but we have a lot of work to do.”
The Golden Knights became the first team this season to clinch a playoff berth with a 5-2 victory against San Jose on Wednesday. Jonathan Marchessault had two goals and Mark Stone scored to extend his point streak to six games (six goals, five assists).
Moreover, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves for his 487th career victory, two behind Roberto Luongo for third in NHL history.
“It’s an accomplishment in this league, 31 teams, to make the playoffs,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. “I’ve been on the other end of it, scratched and clawed, and missed.
“Once you get in, all those 16 teams have an opportunity. It’s nice we punched our ticket.”
Vegas, which has a league-leading 33 victories, became the fourth franchise in NHL history to make the playoffs each of its first four seasons.
“What this franchise has done so far is unheard of. I don’t know if you’ll ever see that again out of an expansion team,” DeBoer said. “I wouldn’t trade our group for any other group out there.”
The Golden Knights’ goal is to get back to the Stanley Cup Final, which they reached in 2018 as an expansion franchise.
“The first year, we were just concentrating on winning four games, probably,” Marchessault said. “I think it’s something our group and organization should be proud of. Four straight years in the playoffs, that’s how you build a franchise.”
The Ducks haven’t played since Tuesday, a 4-1 loss at Los Angeles, which was their third consecutive defeat.
Cam Fowler scored for the Ducks, who rank last in the league with 103 goals (2.19 per game).
“It’s one of those tough games to evaluate,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “Overall, I thought we played a good game. We just didn’t score when we needed to, and they did.”
The Ducks will be without forward Jakob Silfverberg, who underwent surgery Thursday to repair a torn labrum and bone problem in his right hip and will be out for four to six months. The nine-year veteran had career lows of eight goals and eight assists in 47 games this season, with a minus-17 rating, also poorest in his NHL career.
“He did everything he could to continue playing, but after two years dealing with this issue, now is the right time to help him get to 100 percent,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said Friday. “He has been an impactful player in all situations for us, and we are confident he will return to full health by next season.”
–Field Level Media