Vegas Golden Knights vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Pick & Prediction MARCH 23rd 2024

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The Vegas Golden Knights have experienced enough playoff races in their short history to know when it’s time to step on the gas.

The Knights seem to recognize they’re at the starting line heading into their matchup Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Las Vegas.

After playing sub-.500 hockey since mid-December, Vegas (37-25-7, 81 points) has won four of its past six games to maintain its four-point lead over the St. Louis Blues for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

The defending Stanley Cup champions will open a four-game trip Monday in St. Louis, but the Golden Knights won’t overlook a Columbus team that beat them 6-3 on March 4 behind the first NHL hat trick from Alexander Nylander.

“We’ve played big-time hockey games as a group before,” Vegas center Jack Eichel said. “We understand the circumstances that we’ve put ourselves in now. Every game means something, so it’s important to get two points.”

Following the Columbus matchup, Vegas will play seven of the next eight games on the road before closing the regular season with a four-game homestand.

“Obviously that time of year, trying to collect as many points as we can,” Vegas forward Chandler Stephenson said. “We’re not happy with the spot we’re in, so just trying to collect as many wins here.”

The Golden Knights still need to find a remedy for their power play. The team is in a 6-for-49 slump after going 1-for-5 in a 3-1 win against the visiting Seattle Kraken on Thursday.

The Golden Knights displayed their resolve after surrendering the tying goal while on the penalty kill with 6:31 left in the third period against the Kraken by scoring two goals in the final 1:20 to secure the much-needed two points.

“That’s something we were good at last year, that short-term memory,” Stephenson said of the response after surrendering the late tying goal. “That resiliency was there last year, and we’re starting to find it here a little bit more now.”

The Blue Jackets (23-35-12, 58 points) have lost six of seven (1-4-2) after falling to the Colorado Avalanche 6-1 on Friday night, the second game of a five-game road trip.

Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski, who had five points (one goal, four assists) in the four games before meeting Colorado, took a team-high six shots on goal against the Avalanche.

He needs one more assist to pass David Vyborny for sole possession of second place in team history (205).

Johnny Gaudreau also has six points (one goal, five assists) in the past five games for Columbus.

Daniil Tarasov is expected to start in goal for the Blue Jackets after Elvis Merzlikins stopped 45 of 51 shots against Colorado.

Tarasov made 36 saves in the win against Vegas nearly three weeks ago and is 1-1-0 in three career appearances against the Golden Knights with a .904 save percentage and 3.71 goals-against average.

Columbus defenseman Damon Severson has an idea about how the Blue Jackets can produce more scoring opportunities.

“One way to create offense is that second wave of attack, and we have to get that from our D,” Severson said.

–Field Level Media

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