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Avalanche At Golden Knights: 3 Keys To The Game

The game can be seen on TV on AT&T SportsNet. This is DIRECTV channel 684, U-verse channels 757 (SD) and 1757 (HD), and CenturyLink channels 760 (SD) and 1760 (HD). The radio broadcast is on FOX Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM.

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

At the beginning of training camp, Gerard Gallant said that his hope was to iron out the team's roster by the time there were two preseason games remaining.

Well, we're at that point now.

The Golden Knights return to home ice to take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight at 7:00 PM, before hosting the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at 5:00 PM.

While several roster cuts have been made, the Golden Knights have not made final decisions yet. George McPhee has until October 3 to submit the team's Opening Night roster to the NHL, and several players in the lineup will be trying to use Thursday's game to solidify their position.

That will be a central storyline this evening.

Here are three keys to watch heading into Thursday's game against the Avalanche.

1. Battles for forward roster spots

While many of the players expected to be Vegas' top forwards - Shipachyov, Smith, Marchessault, et all - will all be in the lineup on Thursday, there are still a few interesting inserts into the lineup.

RELATED: Golden Knights announce lineup for Thursday vs. Avalanche

William Carrier, whose goal tied Tuesday's game in the third period, draws back in the lineup. Carrier was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in the Expansion Draft, but spent part of last season with the AHL's Rochester Americans.

 

Video: LAK@VGK: Carrier ties game at 2 with rebound goal

 

Carrier is far from guaranteed a roster spot and draws back in on Thursday.

So does Alex Tuch.

Tuch is a former first-round pick of the Minnesota Wild, but hasn't been a full-time NHLer at this point in his career. The 21-year-old has been one of the most impressive forwards in camp, and could solidify his NHL roster spot with a strong performance.

Ditto for Tomas Hyka.

Brendan Leipsic, injured during warmups last week in San Jose, also returns tonight. Leipsic has tore it up in the AHL the past few seasons, but is also trying to earn his NHL roster spot.

Tomas Nosek and Teemu Pulkkinen, a couple other players who figure to still be fighting for roster spots, are not in tonight's lineup.

2. FLOWER!

After dressing, but not playing, on Tuesday vs. LA, Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start in goal this evening.

 

Video: VGK@ANA: Fleury uses glove to swat puck away

 

Fleury was superb in stopping 26 of 28 shots to defeat the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on Sunday. But for a player expected to be one of the faces of this franchise, Thursday could mark his home debut.

RELATED: Debut out of ordinary for Fleury

And how the three-time Stanley Cup champion performs in front of the home fans should be a treat to watch.

3. In The Hunt

Brad Hunt wasn't supposed to make the Golden Knights. But this defenseman has done nothing but perform.

A goal and five assists in three preseason games paces the team in scoring.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Hunt's performance merits an NHL roster spot.

 

 Video: VGK@COL: Hunt rips a slap shot top corner

 

But with a logjam of defensemen still in camp, not everyone can make it. And for a player for whom the odds were stacked against, every game is key. Hunt can ill afford a bad performance tonight, after not playing on Tuesday vs. LA.

RELATED: Battles for roster spots intensify

If Hunt has another solid performance on Thursday, it perhaps locks up his spot.

But if he doesn't, then who knows?

A lot of interesting questions still have to be answered the next five days.

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