When asked about what makes the Golden Knights such a tough opponent to play on their home ice, Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice did not go the obvious route.
The Golden Knights are good in Vegas — because they are flat out good. And have been, basically, since Day 1.
Maurice noted his Winnipeg Jets did not have much success against the Golden Knights over the years and they ended up losing to the expansion team in the 2018 Western Conference finals.
Florida goes into tonight’s game against the Pacific-leading Golden Knights without ever having won in Vegas.
”They built a good team and those four lines they roll out are really deep,’’ Maurice said. “They have (William) Karlsson who is an underrated, elite players and he’s in the three hole.
“They have been a very deep team since they came in an an expansion team. And this is a very loud building. If they get anything going, the building gets lit up and energy is a real important thing.”
The Panthers are 0-3-1 in Las Vegas since the Golden Knights started in 2017 and have been outscored 21-13 in those four losses.
The Golden Knights scoring at least five goals in all four games.
Per DraftKings, tonight’s Over/Under is 6.5. Just saying.
In an odd turn of events, the Golden Knights may be leading their division but are just 12-10-0 at home this season while a robust 15-3-2 away from the bright lights of the Strip.
The Panthers are looking to end their first big road trip of this rough January with a winning record having won in Detroit and Denver following a lackluster finish to their game in Dallas on Sunday.
“We can go into this game feeling good about where we are on this road trip and really look forward to having a great trip,” Maurice said.
Florida has won three of its past four games but come into Thursday still six points back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Digging out of the hole the team created is not going to come overnight. It is going to take time — and a lot of wins.
“We need these points more than lots of teams,” Matthew Tkachuk said. “This last game can make this a great trip, but it is very important that we get this win. We’re focused right now … it is a very dialed in group with guys knowing what they need to be their best.”
Florida will start Sergei Bobrovsky tonight with the Knights expecting to go with backup Adin Hill.
Casey Fitzgerald met the team in Vegas and took part in an optional morning skate but Maurice did not say whether he would make his Florida debut tonight after being claimed off waivers from Buffalo on Wednesday.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
- When: Thursday, 10 p.m.
- Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida; ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Draft Kings odds — Vegas favored: MoneyLine (-120); Puck line (-1.5, +210); Over/Under 6.5 (-110/-110)
- Last season: Split 1-1
- All-time regular season series: Vegas leads 5-2-1
- Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Vancouver, 7 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP
15 Anton Lundell // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
21 Nick Cousins // 12 Eric Staal // 27 Eetu Luostarinen
94 Ryan Lomberg // 6 Colin White // 54 Givani Smith
42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad
18 Marc Staal // 62 Brandon Montour
28 Josh Mahura // 7 Radko Gudas
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
34 Alex Lyon
Injured: Anthony Duclair (LTIR-Achilles), Patric Hornqvist (LTIR-concussion), Spencer Knight (IR-undisclosed)
Scratched: Casey Fitzgerald, Chris Tierney, Zac Dalpe
PROJECTED VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS LINEUP
43 Paul Cotter // 9 Jack Eichel // 81 Jonathan Marchessault
22 Mike Amadio // 20 Chandler Stephenson // 61 Mark Stone
19 Reilly Smith // 71 William Karlsson // 8 Phil Kessel
28 Will Carrier // 10 Nicolas Roy // 55 Keegan Kolesar
14 Nicolas Hague // 7 Alex Pietrangelo
3 Brayden McNabb // 6 Kaedan Korczak
23 Alec Martinez // 94 Brayden Pachal
33 Adin Hill
36 Logan Thompson