The Golden Knights hear footsteps.
The team has had a comfortable lead on the fourth-place team in the Pacific Division for weeks, but the Arizona Coyotes have won five straight and are eight points behind in the standings with two games in hand. That puts the Knights’ hold on third and an automatic playoff spot in jeopardy.
And they know it.
“We’ve lost too much lately,” center William Karlsson said. “We know if we don’t start winning again, teams are going to catch up. Five straight and (the Coyotes are) getting closer.”
The Knights had a 10-point lead on fourth place at the All-Star break and an 11-point lead Feb. 7. They appeared set to race even further ahead but went 3-5-1 during a nine-game stretch that included eight home games.
During that period, defenseman Nate Schmidt admitted the Knights were in “limbo” because they had fallen far behind the first-place Calgary Flames and second-place San Jose Sharks but maintained a good lead on the fourth-place Vancouver Canucks. But the Coyotes’ winning streak changed the division’s landscape, and the Knights know they need to respond.
“Arizona keeps on winning, so we have to keep our foot on the gas,” winger Reilly Smith said.
Karlsson isn’t the only Knight with a stick-between-his-legs goal on his resume after Smith scored that way Thursday against the Florida Panthers. Karlsson isn’t jealous, though; he’s an admirer.
He said Smith’s goal, which started when Smith received the puck standing still with his back to the crease, was more difficult than his, which was done at full speed against the Sharks on March 31.
“He didn’t have a lot of space and didn’t have a lot of time,” Karlsson said. “It was a real skillful play.”
The Knights will play on back-to-back days three more times in March after facing the Panthers and Anaheim Ducks on Thursday and Friday.
The team played on consecutive days just once previously in 2019, on Feb. 1 and 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers.
“It’s going to be fun,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “Definitely have to get the legs going.”
Odds and ends
— Chicago Wolves forward Daniel Carr, who has played six games with the Knights this season, was named the American Hockey League’s player of the month for February. Carr, 27, scored 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) last month.
— The Knights and AT&T SportsNet will sell backpacks filled with memorabilia and team-branded items at noon March 23 before the team’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, with proceeds benefiting the team’s charity.
Fans may purchase the backpacks by texting KNIGHTS to 52181 or visiting knights.givesmart.com. A limited number also will be available at T-Mobile Arena.