Preview: Sharks at Golden Knights
The surging San Jose Sharks have been getting by with a lot of help from their new friend as they prepare to visit the even-hotter Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. Two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, in his first season with San Jose, became the fifth defensemen in NHL history to record an assist in 14 straight games with three in Tuesday's 7-2 victory over Edmonton - the Sharks' fourth straight win.
"He's been great," San Jose captain Joe Pavelski (team-high 25 goals) told reporters about Karlsson. "He's really established his game in our structure. Everybody feels pretty comfortable playing with him because he makes those plays and he makes the outlet pass and he's got that speed coming out of our end with it. He's been a big piece to our success lately." Karlsson, who has three goals and 41 points overall, started slow with seven assists in his first 18 games this season, and has 24 during his historic streak. Vegas has won seven straight after its 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday behind goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's league-leading 25th win. The Golden Knights rolled 6-0 on Nov. 24 in the first meeting since ousting the Sharks in the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs behind two goals from Max Pacioretty and 33 saves by Fleury, who is 8-3-3 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .940 save percentage versus San Jose.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, NBCS California (San Jose), AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (Vegas)
ABOUT THE SHARKS (25-13-7): Lost in the Karlsson shuffle is the performance of late by fellow Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns (team highs of 41 assists and 49 points), who has four goals and 10 assists in his last seven games. Burns and Karlsson are carrying the blue line with Marc-Edouard Vlasic (undisclosed) missing the last three games, while defenseman Justin Braun (knee) is expected to sit for the fourth consecutive contest. Evander Kane (16 goals, 33 points) scored twice Tuesday for his second two-goal game in the last three contests while Joonas Donskoi (24 points) also tallied twice against the Oilers and has seven of his 13 goals this season in the last six games.
ABOUT THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS (27-15-4): Fleury (25-10-4, 2.46, .912) has won five straight starts, allowing six goals and compiling a .956 SP during that span. Jonathan Marchessault (14 goals, 31 points) snapped a seven-game scoreless streak Tuesday and has only two goals and two assists in his last 11 contests while fellow forward William Karlsson (team-high 15 goals) hasn't scored in five games. Pacioretty joined Marchessault and Karlsson on the top line Tuesday and has two goals and an assist in three games since missing seven with an undisclosed injury.
1. Paul Coffey holds the record for consecutive games with an assist by a defenseman at 17 set in 1985-86 followed by Brian Leetch (15, 1991-92), Bobby Orr (14, 1970-71) and Phil Housley (14, 1992-93).
2. San Jose is 7-for-16 with the man advantage in the last five games with Karlsson recording a power-play assist in each contest.
3. Vegas scored a power-play goal Tuesday after going 0-for-16 in the last six games.
PREDICTION: Golden Knights 3, Sharks 2