The Minnesota Wild are one of the last teams standing as the Vegas Golden Knights‘ inaugural season comes to a close.
The Golden Knights (42-20-5) have beaten every team in the league but the Wild and the New York Islanders over the course of their whirlwind debut. The Wild beat Vegas 4-2 in November and 5-2 in February at Xcel Energy Center, but head to T-Mobile Arena on Friday, where the Golden Knights are tough out at 24-8-2.
Vegas leads the Pacific Division with 95 points, fourth-most in the NHL, and was on pace to win the Presidents’ Trophy — given to the league’s regular-season champion — as recently as late February.
It’s a remarkable start for Vegas, which was expected to stockpile prospects and draft picks this season, but will instead make the playoffs with a roster pieced together via the expansion draft.
The change of scenery has done wonders for one of their biggest gets, former Wild forward Erik Haula.
A reliable bottom-six presence in four seasons with the Wild, Haula broke out in a big way after arriving in the desert. He ranks second on the Golden Knights in scoring with 27 goals, and is tied with the likes of Steven Stamkos, Vladimir Tarasenko and Auston Matthews for 24th in the league.
|w/ Minnesota (per season)||w/ Vegas (2017-18)|
However, one of the players the Wild retained in the expansion draft, veteran center Eric Staal, is closing in on a career season of his own.
Staal is tied for fifth in the league with 37 goals, and with 12 games to play in on pace to score 40 for the third time in his 14-year career. He’s scored four of them against Vegas, more than any other player.
The Wild will need Staal to finish strong. Minnesota has the league’s second-toughest strength of schedule the rest of the way. The Wild are third in the Central Division with 85 points, just one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche and two points ahead of the Dallas Stars, which occupy the two wild-card spots.
— If Staal scores two more goals against Vegas in their final meeting he would become the only Wild player ever to score multiple goals in three or more consecutive games against the same team.
— Vegas has the league’s best power play over its last 25 games at 33.8 percent.
— The Wild are undefeated against one other Western Conference team this season: They’re 2-0-0 against the San Jose Sharks.
— Minnesota scored two-plus goals in both previous meetings with Vegas. They’re 12-1-1 since February 1 when scoring three or more, and 0-5-1 when scoring two or fewer.
— Wild veteran Ryan Suter is one of three defensemen to log more than 200 minutes on both the power play and penalty kill this season, joining Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.
Statistics courtesy of STATS