Record-setting Golden Knights prepare for Oilers
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LAS VEGAS -- It was a storybook first half of the season for the Vegas Golden Knights who shattered record after record for an NHL expansion team en route to a 29-10-2 mark and first place in the Pacific Division.
But don't look for head coach Gerard Gallant, whose squad returns from its bye week to host Edmonton on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena, to let his team rest on its laurels.
"We've had a great first half, and we all know that," Gallant said after putting his team through a pair of 30-minute workouts on Friday afternoon. "But the first half doesn't mean nothing if we don't pick it up and go to the ultimate goal."
That would be the Stanley Cup playoffs, a goal most would have found laughable before Vegas began the season.
But the Golden Knights ended the first half on an eye-popping 14-1-1 run and will bring a seven-game home win streak into Saturday's game with the Oilers.
"We've got to keep working hard and playing hard and get as many points as we can and we'll see where it takes us," Gallant said. "I think our players are confident and feel good about themselves."
Many members of the Golden Knights spent their off time in the sunny, warm waters of Cabo San Lucas. To that end, Gallant owes the NHL schedule-maker a big thank you for scheduling Edmonton which should make the Golden Knights refocus before kicking off the second half of the season.
The Oilers handed Vegas its worst loss in team history in their first meeting on Nov. 14 at Rogers Place, bolting out to a 3-0 first period lead and rolling to an 8-2 victory behind two goals each by Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
"(McDavid) had his way with us," Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "That just makes this game that much more exciting for us, especially after what happened the last time we played them."
Gallant was asked if he would bring up that result as a way to motivate his team.
"You don't have to remind them," Gallant said. "They know they had a stinker game that night. But you know what? That game showed us a lot about our hockey team. We came back two nights later in Vancouver and played a really good hockey game on the road (winning 5-2). I think after that game we won five in a row. The guys really showed a lot of character. ... That was the turning point in the season for me."
Edmonton (19-23-3) comes in off a 4-2 victory at Arizona on Friday night and will be playing its final game before its bye week break. Defenseman Darnell Nurse had two goals and McDavid had two assists as the Oilers rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to win for just the second time in nine games.
"It was nice to see us be resilient and come back," Nurse said. "It could have been easy for us to say, 'Here we go again' but that wasn't the case. We continued to make plays, and once goals started to go in, we just continued to play and found a way to win the game. That's a big step for us."
Edmonton improved to 7-2 in Pacific Division games while Vegas is 11-1 with the lone loss to the Oilers.
Updated January 13, 2018