DALLAS — Deryk Engelland made the choice to buck tradition and pick up the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl when the Golden Knights won the Western Conference on May 20, 2018.
Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov did the same thing when his team won the Prince of Wales Trophy on Wednesday. Captain Mark Stone could face the same decision as soon as Thursday night.
The Knights are one win from returning to the Stanley Cup Final and could clinch in Game 4 of their series with the Dallas Stars on Thursday at American Airlines Center. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for a team that missed the playoffs last season.
The Knights are up 3-0 against the Stars in the Western Conference Final and could complete the second sweep in franchise history with a win. They could also win their sixth straight game of the playoffs, matching the franchise record.
“We’re one step closer to where we want to be,” Stone said. “But we still have one more game to win.”
History says the Knights have little to worry about.
Teams that go up 3-0 have an overall series record of 200-4. Those that do so the round before the Stanley Cup Final are 46-0.
Making the Stars’ climb tougher is that they will need to come back short-handed. Captain Jamie Benn was suspended two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety on Tuesday for his cross-check on Stone in Game 3. Right wing Evgenii Dadonov, a former Knight, is out for Game 4 because of a lower-body injury.
The Stars recalled forwards Mavrik Bourque and Rhett Gardner from the American Hockey League for extra depth. Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said Thursday morning that the team was still deciding on its lineup.
“Bottom line is, they’re going to drop the puck tomorrow at 7 (Central time) and we’ve got to win a game,” DeBoer said.
The Knights aren’t looking too far into the future, either, despite being one win from a Stanley Cup Final matchup with Florida.
They’ve succeeded this postseason by focusing on the task in front of them before worrying about what comes after. It’s helped them achieve an 11-3 record, with two five-game winning streaks and no losing streaks to speak of.
The Knights aren’t expected to make any lineup changes. Left wing Brett Howden left Game 3 early with a lower-body injury, but he was a full participant in the team’s morning skate, and coach Bruce Cassidy said he assumes Howden will be ready to go.
The Knights know what’s at stake. They can become the eighth franchise in NHL history to reach two Stanley Cup Finals in its first six seasons.
“How can you be comfortable when you’re in the playoffs?” right wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “Every game means something. It’s a new day. We have to put our work boots on tonight and be ready to go.”
Knights vs. Stars, Game 4 (5 p.m.)
Radio: KKGK (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Stars -105; total 5½
Knights’ projected lineup:
Ivan Barbashev — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Nicolas Roy
Brett Howden — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
William Carrier — Teddy Blueger — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Nic Hague — Zach Whitecloud
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