The Vegas Golden Knights, armed with their new star goalie, are set to open a five-game road trip on Tuesday night at the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla.
This is the longest remaining road trip on Vegas’ schedule. The first three games on the trek are especially difficult with Florida, which won the President’s Cup in 2022 as the NHL’s best team in the regular season; the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won two Stanley Cup titles in the past three years; and the Carolina Hurricanes, first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Given that, first-year Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy has to feel good that his club acquired three-time All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick last Thursday.
Quick, 37, made his Vegas debut on Sunday, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 4-3.
“I felt pretty comfortable right from the get-go,” said Quick, who won two Stanley Cup titles during his 16-year tenure with the Los Angeles Kings. “Different setting, different jersey, but once you get out there, you just try to play hockey.”
Aside from Quick, Vegas also acquired center Ivan Barbashev earlier in the trade-deadline process.
Barbashev, 27, has already paid dividends with two goals and three assists in four games with the Golden Knights. Barbashev scored both those goals against Montreal.
“That’s where he hangs out. He’s comfortable there, right out in front of the net,” Cassidy said.
Barbashev has joined a forward group led by Jack Eichel, who tops Vegas in goals (23). Center Chandler Stephenson leads Vegas in assists (38) and points (50).
The Golden Knights also have two forwards acquired from the Panthers before their inaugural season: Jonathan Marchessault (42 points) and Reilly Smith (41 points).
In 12 career games against the Panthers, Marchessault has two goals and six assists. Smith has been even better with seven goals and six assists in 16 games.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are coming off an impressive 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
Despite that victory, the Panthers have been unable to get on a win streak over the past month. Since Feb. 9, they have been stuck in a win one, lose one trend.
The Panthers are expected to continue to ride goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 19-17-2 with a 2.98 goals-against average.
Offensively, Carter Verhaeghe leads Florida in goals with a career-high 32. Matthew Tkachuk tops Florida in assists (53) and points (81). Brandon Montour leads Florida’s defensemen in goals, a career-high-tying 11, and in assists, a career-high 40.
The big news for the Panthers, however, was that they got two standout forwards back from injury in time for the Penguins game. Sam Bennett had missed six straight games, and Aleksander Barkov had missed three.
Last season, they combined to score 67 goals for the Panthers.
“It’s great having our full lineup,” said Bennett, who has 15 goals and 21 assists this season. “We’ve got a lot of confidence now. We’re ready to make a (playoff) push. It was tough being out and only able to watch.”
Barkov has more multi-point games, 158, than any other player in Panthers history, breaking that record against Pittsburgh. Barkov this season has 16 goals and 36 assists, and he leads all qualifying players on Florida in faceoff win percentage (54.6).
“I’m happy to be back,” said Barkov, one of the best defensive centers in the NHL. “I’m excited, and excited to play with these guys.”
–Field Level Media