LOS ANGELES — The Golden Knights start a back-to-back Saturday against the last-place Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.
Opening faceoff is 1 p.m., and the game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain.
This is the first matchup of the season between the rivals, who meet twice more this month (Dec. 23 and 29) and again on Jan. 1.
The Knights, who won seven of their past eight, host Dallas on Sunday to finish the back-to-back before embarking on a four-game road trip.
“L.A. is a real good team. They’ve had a tough go,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “They’ve lost a lot of close games, and they’re frustrated, and they want to play better hockey. We’re going to go into that game knowing L.A.’s a real good team. We played well against them last year, but it means nothing. They’re last in the Pacific Division right now, but they’re a good hockey team.
“I guess I look at them as, when we had trouble putting the puck in the net earlier in the year — we had no puck luck — that’s what you see with L.A. Right now, the puck’s not going in the net for them. They’re working hard. They’re competing hard. They’re going to be a battle. It’s going to be a real tough game.”
The Knights (16-13-1, 33 points) did not have a morning skate Saturday, and no lineup information is available until Gallant meets with the media two hours before the game.
Gallant is expected to go with the same lineup from Thursday’s 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury likely to make his ninth consecutive start.
“I know we’re not thrilled with our game (Thursday). There’s a lot of areas we could improve, but we found a way to win,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “Now we’re translating to a road game and playing a tough team in L.A., who hasn’t been getting wins. But they’re a good team and they play us hard, so we have to be ready.”
Los Angeles, which has lost two in a row, owns the league’s worst record at 10-18-1 (21 points) and is last in the NHL in goals scored (62).
Defenseman Drew Doughty blasted his team’s effort following Thursday’s 6-3 loss to New Jersey, calling it “pathetic” and “embarrassing.”
“We have to be a physical team, we have to be a hard team to play against,” Doughty told reporters. “We have to have teams come in here and be like, ‘Oh, no, we’ve got to play the Kings again in their arena,’ you know what I mean? I don’t see enough physicality from our team. I don’t see enough compete.”
Winger Nikita Scherbak, who was claimed off waivers from Montreal on Sunday, is expected to make his Kings debut now that his work visa issues have been resolved.
Former Golden Knights winger Brendan Leipsic was claimed off waivers Monday and scored Thursday in his second game with Los Angeles.
The Kings have struggled on special teams, with league’s second-worst power play (14.0 percent) and a penalty kill ranked tied for 28th at 73.3 percent.
“It’ll be a battle,” Gallant said. “They’ve got a lot of experience. They’ve got a lot of pride over there, and they’re not going to quit. It’s early in the hockey season.”
Golden Knights projected lineup
Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty-Cody Eakin-Alex Tuch
Oscar Lindberg-Tomas Nosek-Ryan Carpenter
William Carrier-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb-Nate Schmidt
Shea Theodore-Deryk Engelland
Nick Holden-Colin Miller