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Golden Knights At Senators: 3 Keys To The Game

Saturday's game starts at 11:00 AM. 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).

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

Three losses in a row

THREE!

For the expansion Golden Knights, this is a losing streak unlike any other in franchise history.

Which, we know. The team has only been around for a month.

At the same time, Vegas' is now up against it to change the momentum before the team's unbelievable start gets squandered.

At 8-4-0, the Golden Knights look to get back in the win column on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.

Note that Saturday's game starts at 11:00 AM (PT), 2:00 here in Ottawa.

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 the game.

Video: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare checks in from practice

1. Change the outcome

Since leaving for their season-long, six-game road trip last week, the Golden Knights have failed to win a game.

What was once an 8-1-0 team on a five-game winning streak is now 8-4-0 and on a three-game skid.

RELATED: Senators coach bestows lofty praise on Vegas

 

Despite this turn in fortune, head coach Gerard Gallant was upbeat during Friday's practice at Canadian Tire Centre. And not optimistic in that this team is 8-4-0, and is still an expansion team.

Gallant was encouraged by the way his team has played. Especially on Thursday in Boston, where despite losing 2-1, Vegas held its opponents to very few scoring chances in one of the club's better defensive efforts of the season.

"I thought everybody played hard last night and played well," Gallant said. "It was a good, team game. That's what we talked about. I liked the way we played. Like I said, we can interchange a little bit."

Of course, as much as coaches preach the process, the NHL is a results-oriented business. Playing well is great, but winning games is better.

According to Gallant, he doesn't want to tweak anything too dramatically despite the recent skid. Vegas remains confident that sticking to its process, if continued, will begin to yield better results.

 

Video: Jonathan Marchessault speaks ahead of Saturday's game

 

2. March On

On Thursday, there was little room to make plays in Boston. Against the Senators on Saturday, the Golden Knights should expect even less.

Under head coach Guy Boucher, Ottawa is renowned for its ability to clog up the neutral zone. The Senators muck it up and make the game sloppy, and are so good at it that they came within a single goal of eliminating the eventual-champion Penguins and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

Given this approach that Ottawa takes and the difficulty Vegas' offense had in this sort of game on Thursday, it'd be hard to expect the Golden Knights to have many opportunities on Saturday.

To break this style, speed is sometimes the only way to do it. Move your feet and make a smart, effective play before the other team's defense can get in position to stop you.

Because of this, we're going to go out on a limb and say that Jonathan Marchessault is a player to watch for Vegas, With three goals and three assists in six games, Marchessault has especially heated up since returning from an injury he sustained on October 13 against Detroit.

And as probably Vegas' fastest skating forward, he may be best equipped to find the space needed to score.


3. Erik Karlsson

The Expansion Draft was structured in a manner that allowed the Golden Knights to have a chance this year.

Where unlike past expansion teams, many of whom floundered at the bottom of the standings after being designated to only take bottom players off of other teams' rosters, Vegas had a chance to field a competitive lineup.

This perhaps is why the Golden Knights have been able to start out 8-4-0, and emerge as one of the league's biggest surprises in October.

At the same time, the key to Vegas' success has been contributions throughout its lineup. Where able to have a team of players that were the ninth or 10th best players on their former teams, Vegas doesn't have any players that would be a team's 15-17th ranked players.

Where other teams may have more high-end players but also more lower-end players, Vegas is a team of players who have similar pedigree.

Which is great, when you're winning.

Except when you play a team that has one of those bona fide stars, it poses a problem.

Senators captain Erik Karlsson is one of those players. A defenseman known more for his offensive prowess, Karlsson has won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman in two of the past six years.

Karlsson is especially deadly when in possession of the puck, with which he flies around the ice as smoothly as anyone in the sport.

The Golden Knights don't have a player like this.

The Senators do.

It stands to reason that Vegas' ability to limit Karlsson's space is the key to shutting down the Senators. Without Karlsson's contributions, these teams' lineups aren't all that different.

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