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Avalanche At Golden Knights: 3 Keys To The Game

Today's game can be seen on AT&T SportsNet at 3:00 PM. This is Cox channels 313 (SD) and 1313 (HD), DIRECTV channel 684, U-verse channels 757 (SD) and 1757 (HD), and CenturyLink channels 760 (SD) and 1760 (HD).

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

At 7-1-0, the Golden Knights aren't only the NHL's most surprising story early in this season.

This team is the most surprising story, the second most surprising story and the third most surprising story.

After all, most recent expansion teams only won one or two of their first eight games, and this team has won seven.

The Golden Knights could move into first place in the Western Conference with a win today, too.

Although to do so, Vegas will have to contend with the Colorado Avalanche, who are off to a surprising 5-4-0 start of their own, a year after finishing dead last in the league.

Today's game starts at 3:00, a Nevada Day matinee special.

It can be seen on AT&T SportsNet. This is Cox channels 313 (SD) and 1313 (HD), DIRECTV channel 684, U-verse channels 757 (SD) and 1757 (HD), and CenturyLink channels 760 (SD) and 1760 (HD).

Dave Goucher and Shane Hnidy will have all the action.

Dan D'Uva will be calling the game on FOX Sports Radio. This is 98.9 FM and 1340 AM.

Here are three keys to tonight's game.

Video: The Golden Knights practiced at City National Arena

 

1. DANSK!

Some might have called it beginner's luck when minor league goalie Oscar Dansk defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in his first NHL start on Tuesday. Especially after he came on in relief and also defeated the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

For an unproven goalie like Dansk, thrust into the spotlight due to injuries to Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban, there's going to be a burden to prove that he's not a fluke for a while.

This is just the territory of being an unproven goalie.

Should Dansk start again today, his ability to maintain the high level of play he's shown thus far will be key.

Especially with the changes in the team's roster the past few days, with Vadim Shipachyov still in the AHL, as well as the handful of moves Vegas made this morning.

Erik Haula was activated from IR, while Jason Garrison was placed on waivers. Griffin Reinhart was sent to the Chicago Wolves for conditioning.

 

Video: Golden Knights players comment on the Halloween party

 

2. One for the road

When the Golden Knights started the season with seven of the team's first nine games at home, it was seen as a very favorable early-season schedule.

To Vegas' credit, it's capitalized on this, entering today's game with a 7-1-0 record, including 5-1-0 on its current homestand.

Today against the Avalanche is the end of that homestand and favorable early-season schedule. After today, the Golden Knights embark on a six-game, 12-day road trip to the east coast and actually play 14 of the next 20 away from home.

Although the Avalanche are off to a moderately strong start at 5-4-0, this is a team that went only 22-56-4 a year ago, worst in the NHL. This isn't to say this is an easy game by any stretch of the imagination.

It's just with so many road games and difficult travel coming up, it would really behoove the Golden Knights to capitalize on playing the Avalanche at home today.

Because this team's schedule is going to get really difficult really fast after today.


3. Why are the Avalanche better?

After having one of the worst seasons by any team in the last two decades last year, the Avalanche were expected to be doormats again by many experts.

Colorado, however, is above .500 right now and right in the thick of it in the Western Conference standings.

This (early) turnaround can largely be attributed to a healthy Semyon Varlamov in goal. After playing in only 24 games and not even being healthy while doing so, Varlamov has returned with a vengeance this season. Varlamov has a .929 save percentage this year, placing him in the top 10 in the league.

He was only at .898 last season while former Golden Knight Calvin Pickard played in 50 games at sat at .904.

This improvement in goaltending is the largest reason for the Avalanche's turnaround.

Factor in that Matt Duchene is tied for the team lead with eight points (3G, 5A) in spite of constant trade rumors, and Colorado is not nearly as easy of an opponent as many people expected it to be.

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