Golden Knights and Canucks square off for first of three with playoff implications

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The Vegas Golden Knights will go for a sweep of their three-game road trip to the Pacific Northwest on Sunday afternoon when they face the Vancouver Canucks in a game with major playoff implications for both teams.

Vegas (38-28-4, 80 points) snuck back into the second wild card spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference with a 5-2 victory at Seattle on Friday night to complete a sweep of a two-game set with the Kraken that began with a 3-0 win on Wednesday.

The Canucks (32-28-9, 73 points), who have a game in hand, are still within striking distance and play Vegas three times over a nine-day span, including twice at home.

Canucks trying to stay in playoff race

“The guys, we know how important every game is,” Canucks winger Elias Pettersson said. “We’re not going down without a battle.”

“I think you have to take it one game at a time,” forward Tanner Pearson said. “I think it’s nice that you’re still playing for something and every game matters. You’ve got to be dialed in or else you’re going to be on the outside real quick.”

After playing five times over an eight-day stretch that concluded with back-to-back losses to St. Louis, the Canucks have had a three-day break to refresh following a 4-3 home loss the Blues on Wednesday.

“They looked tired a little bit out there … like they played five games in eight days,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Pearson, who helped lead the Los Angeles Kings to the 2014 Stanley Cup, said one look at the standings should help rejuvenate his team.

“Coming to the rink knowing you have something to play for helps a lot I think,” he said. “Obviously the games against (the Golden Knights) are big but every game against every team is big.”

He’ll get no argument from the Golden Knights on that account.

Golden Knights fighting for playoff lives

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Apr 1, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; From left, Las Vegas Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson (20), center Jack Eichel (9), defenseman Zach Whitecloud (2) and forward Evgenii Dadonov (63) celebrate a goal during the first period against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

The two wins over the expansion Kraken, who are in a battle with Arizona for the fewest points in the Western Conference, may not seem like much on paper, but they snapped a seven-game road losing streak for Vegas. With just 12 games remaining, Peter DeBoer’s squad, one of the heavy preseason betting favorites to win the Western Conference, can’t afford any slip-ups down the stretch just to make the playoffs.

“We took care of business,” DeBoer said. “We knew we needed to. Teams around us aren’t losing. We came in here and did what we needed to do, and it’s on to the next challenge.”

Jack Eichel had two goals in Friday night’s victory, his first multi-goal game since Feb. 20, 2020, against Pittsburgh while still playing with the Buffalo Sabres. Eichel has nine goals and 16 points in 22 games since returning from mid-November neck surgery but has scored four goals over his last four games.

“Every game is competitive in this league,” Eichel said after the Golden Knights’ fourth win in a row. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. … We know the position we’re in, but we can only control so much. Just (have to) get two points every night.”

–Field Level Media