Center Paul Stastny knows the Golden Knights will likely enter their first playoff series as an underdog. He just doesn’t want the team to play like it.
Stastny likes the aggressiveness he’s seen from the Knights since the Feb. 25 trade deadline and wants them to carry that through the final 12 regular-season games beginning Friday at Dallas and into the postseason.
“Defensively, we’ve been playing a lot better,” Stastny said. “We’ve been playing well offensively. We’ve been rolling all four lines. We’ve been playing that aggressive, attacking style and really dictating play. I think for us it’s about dictating play. It’s not waiting for the puck drop and letting the other team dictate us.”
The Knights appear destined to start the playoffs on the road. They’re 12 points back of the second-place Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division and 13 points back of the first-place San Jose Sharks entering Thursday, and the top two teams in each division get home-ice advantage in the first round.
Stastny said he believes that won’t matter if the Knights keep playing like they have recently. They’ve won six of their past seven and outscored their opponents 26-15 in that stretch.
“We can play with anybody,” coach Gerard Gallant said after beating the Flames 2-1 on March 6. “We know that.”
Third line locks it down
Center Cody Eakin and forward Alex Tuch have played the past seven games together on the Knights’ third line. The two have a combined eight points (Tuch 5, Eakin 3) in that span and haven’t been on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against.
“They’ve played well,” Gallant said. “It’s not all about offense for me. It’s about playing the right way and keeping the goals against down. That’s how you win hockey games. I want some offense from everybody, but I’m more concerned about keeping the puck out of our net because I think that’s where it starts.”
Right wing Mark Stone said he’s planning on taking his teammates to dinner after signing an eight-year extension with an average annual value of $9.5 million March 8. He just doesn’t know when or where yet.
“I owe these guys a dinner,” Stone said. “I’ll see what day works best for them.”
Stone has a more expensive purchase lined up, too — a new house. He’s currently renting, but he’s toured a few neighborhoods since joining the Knights on Feb. 25.
Defenseman Erik Brannstrom, who the Knights traded to the Ottawa Senators to acquire Stone, made his NHL debut Thursday. The 19-year-old played 17:20 in the Senators’ 2-0 win against the St. Louis Blues.