GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Golden Knights didn’t have an easy first half of the 2018-19 season.
They played more road games (23) than anyone in the NHL. High-priced free-agent signee Paul Stastny missed 30 games with a lower-body injury. Trade acquisition Max Pacioretty missed 11 with various ailments. One of the team’s breakout players from last season, forward Erik Haula, has missed 26 and remains out indefinitely.
So after all that, the Knights seemed content with their 22-15-4 record after Saturday’s 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings, even though they were 29-10-2 at the halfway mark last season.
“I think we came out a little behind where we wanted to be, but we had one of the tougher schedules,” forward Alex Tuch said. “It’s nothing to complain about or anything like that, but it’s something that motivates us going forward. We have a lot more home games coming up in the second half, and we’re really excited about that. Plus, a few more divisional games so that’ll be fun.”
The Knights started 1-4 and were 9-12-1 before the righting the ship. After Sunday’s victory over the Coyotes they are 14-3-3 in their last 20 and riding a six-game point streak.
That’s been enough to put them in a tie with Calgary for first place in the Pacific Division, thanks to an offense that ranks ninth in the league with 128 goals and a defense that’s allowing an average of 2.72 goals.
“We’re in a playoff spot right now, right?” center William Karlsson said. “It’s been tough sometimes, but we’ve managed to bounce back and fight our way back to a playoff spot. We would like to have more (points), but we’re in the playoffs and that’s where we want to be.”
The victory against Arizona on Sunday marked the eighth time this season the Knights have played back-to-back. They have three more the rest of the season: Feb. 1-2 against Carolina and Florida; March 9-10 against Vancouver and Calgary; and March 17-18 against Edmonton and San Jose.
Carrying the night
The Knights and the Coyotes played the only NHL game Sunday.
It was the third time this season just one game appeared on the schedule. Chicago vs. Vancouver was the only matchup on Oct. 31 with Edmonton meeting San Jose on Nov. 20.
Pacioretty stays home
Coach Gerard Gallant said Pacioretty, who has missed six straight games with an undisclosed injury, did not travel with the team to Los Angeles or Arizona.