The Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights play for the first time in a month on Thursday night in Las Vegas. But it's fair to say that a lot has changed in that time for Gerard Gallant's defending Western Conference champions.
The Golden Knights have won nine of their 10 games since that transaction and will be trying for their fourth win in a row against Winnipeg, which has won each of the first two meetings by a combined score of 10-4 and can clinch a Stanley Cup playoff berth with a victory.
"I think once we made that trade then all of a sudden it kind of gave our team a lot more balance throughout our lineup," Golden Knights center Paul Stastny said. "I think there was maybe one piece we were kind of missing. All of a sudden we have three scoring lines and our fourth line chips in a lot and plays really effective. So we have four lines (Gallant) is comfortable rolling in and can play at any position."
Vegas completed a back-to-back sweep of Edmonton and San Jose on Monday night with a 7-3 victory over the Sharks, who hold a seven-point lead over the third-place Golden Knights with nine games to go in the battle for home ice in the first round of the Pacific Division playoffs.
Stone scored a goal in both games and has four goals and four assists since joining the Golden Knights. Malcolm Subban picked up both wins in net while playing the first back-to-back of his career and is expected to make his third straight start Thursday night with starter Marc-Andre Fleury still listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
"It doesn't (change how we play with Subban playing)," center Jonathan Marchessault, who had two goals and two assists in the win over San Jose, said. "I think we have the luxury here of having two good goaltenders that we trust. (Subban) has been good for us all year and last year as well."
Winnipeg, which holds a three-point lead over Nashville for first place in the Central Division, will be trying to complete a sweep of its three-game western road trip that began with a 3-2 victory at Los Angeles on Monday, followed by a 3-0 win at Anaheim on Wednesday. The Jets have won four straight and are 15-5-2 against Pacific Division teams.
"We've been playing great as of late and very defensively," Hellebuyck said. "The guys are putting the details in there, blocking shots, and they did everything right. And this is just a testament to how hard they've been working."
The Jets still have a game in hand on Nashville, which visits Winnipeg on Saturday. The Jets also hold a five-point advantage over Vegas in what could determine home-ice advantage if the two teams were to meet again in the Western Conference finals. The Golden Knights won last year's Western finals, four games to one.
"I think it would be huge (to finish in first place)," Hellebuyck said. "Having home ice is always a good thing. Plus, we already know it's going to be a grind, so any advantage we can get we need."
--Field Level Media
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