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Golden Knights look to clinch playoff berth against Sharks

Updated April 20, 2021 - 9:45 pm

The Golden Knights can clinch their fourth NHL playoff berth in four years by getting at least one point in Wednesday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks at T-Mobile Arena.

But this team wasn’t built just to make the playoffs. It was built to win the Stanley Cup. And with 11 games left in the regular season, here are five things to watch as the Knights prepare for a postseason run:

1. The division race

If the Knights want their third division title in four years, they will have to earn it.

The race between them and Colorado appears set to come down to the wire. The Knights have a two-point lead in the West Division, but have played two more games because the Avalanche are on a COVID-19 pause. They are expected to resume playing Thursday against St. Louis.

The Knights and Avalanche will meet two more times — Monday and April 28 at T-Mobile Arena. They have split six meetings.

“(Those games) are going to probably decide who’s going to be No. 1 and 2,” center William Karlsson said.

2. The goaltending

The Knights have enjoyed an incredible tandem in net.

They lead the NHL in team save percentage (.921) because Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner have been so effective.

The question is whether the team sticks with a rotation during the playoffs or if one of them takes ahold of the job. Lehner, the primary starter last postseason, is 8-0-1 with a .936 save percentage and 1.70 goals-against average since returning from a concussion March 19. Fleury, who dominated the net when Lehner was injured, has a .925 save percentage and 2.09 goals-against average.

“Great problem to have,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Something I’m not really thinking about until I have to.”

3. The power play

The Knights lost in the playoffs last season for one simple reason: They couldn’t score enough goals.

One of the reasons is their power play dried up. The Knights ranked 11th on the power play last postseason and were 4-of-32 (12.5 percent) in their final eight games.

They haven’t exactly turned things around this season.

The Knights are 23rd on the power play (18.3 percent), which is too low for a team with their talent. Clubs need to convert when opponents give them opportunities in the playoffs. The Knights hope they’re moving in the right direction after scoring two power-play goals for just the third time this season Monday.

4. Stone and Pacioretty

This season has been unique for many reasons. Here’s another: The Knights probably will have their first point-per-game player. They might even get two.

Right wing Mark Stone will almost certainly score more points than games played for the second time in his career. He has 52 points in 44 games and has five consecutive multipoint games.

Left wing Max Pacioretty might accomplish the feat, too. He has 45 points in 43 games, and his 22 goals are tied for seventh in the NHL. He has never scored more than 0.94 points-per-game for a season in his career, which he did last season with the Knights.

5. Depth centers

The Knights explored adding another center before the trade deadline. Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said the team reached out to general manager Bob Murray about his availability.

Ultimately, the Knights stood pat, and their depth centers are making them look smart.

Center Tomas Nosek is having a career season with 18 points in 36 games. Center Nicolas Roy has been nearly as good lately, with eight points in his past 10 games.

“We need offense out of those guys in those bottom-six,” DeBoer said. “That’s going to be a big part of this going forward.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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