The Knights will host Game 1 of their second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers at 6:30 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena. They’re itching to go after biding their time following their clinching win against the Winnipeg Jets last Thursday. The Oilers have had plenty of time off as well after finishing their first-round series with Los Angeles on Saturday.
The Knights are expecting a more difficult challenge this time around. Edmonton had the No. 1 offense and power play in the NHL thanks to superstar centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Knights know they need to be sharp from the start, unlike their 5-1 loss to the Jets in Game 1.
Teams that win the opener of a seven-game series advance 67.9 percent of the time.
“If you want to reach the top, you have to beat the best teams,” defenseman Alec Martinez said. “They’re one of the best teams and some of the best players. As an athlete, I don’t think there’s a guy in this league that wouldn’t enjoy the challenge of trying to play against those guys.”
Helping the Knights’ cause is they’ve used their break to get healthy.
Defenseman Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb missed Game 5 against the Jets with an illness and upper-body injury, respectively. Coach Bruce Cassidy said both will be in the lineup Wednesday. Captain Mark Stone will also play despite leaving Tuesday’s practice early for undisclosed reasons.
That gives the Knights their six regular defensemen back against the most high-powered team in the league. They are 34-11-3, including the playoffs, when all six play.
“We like our group back there,” Theodore said. “We have a good mix of puck movers and shutdown guys. I think we played well all year. I think it’s really going to show come this series.”
The Knights will need their blue line to be at its best against the Oilers, against whom they went 1-2-1 in the regular season.
McDavid had seven points in the four meetings between the teams and Draisaitl had eight.
The Knights are 6-6 all-time in Game 1s, and their series record is 4-2 whether they win or lose. Edmonton has lost six straight Game 1s but still holds a 3-3 series record during that span.
“Everyone’s saying they have the special-teams advantage and on paper, the numbers dictate that,” Cassidy said. “We have to make sure we counter that, either by being better on special teams or really outplaying them five-on-five. It’s one or the other, right? That’s how I see it.”
Knights vs. Oilers, Game 1 (6:30 p.m.)
Radio: KKGK (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Oilers -115, total 6½
Knights’ projected lineup:
Ivan Barbashev — Jack Eichel — Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Michael Amadio
Brett Howden — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
William Carrier — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Nic Hague — Zach Whitecloud