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After adding reinforcements, Knights host Canucks

After starting the season with a 12-game point streak, it looked as if the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights were going to run away with another Pacific Division title.

However, heading into a Thursday game against Vancouver in Las Vegas, it’s the Canucks, the sixth-place team last season, who may be running away with the Pacific crown.

Vancouver owns a nine-point lead over the surging Edmonton Oilers with just 18 games to go.

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights, who limp in with a three-game losing streak and have won just twice in their past 10 games (2-7-1), have slipped all the way into the top Western Conference wild-card spot. Vegas is just 22-22-6 since its 11-0-1 start.

But help is on the way for coach Bruce Cassidy’s squad.

Vegas put captain Mark Stone, who sustained a lacerated spleen against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 20, on long-term injured reserve on Monday to free up plenty of cap room to be buyers before the Friday trade deadline.

Sure enough, the Golden Knights made a pair of moves on Wednesday.

First, Vegas sent a 2024 second-round draft pick and a 2026 fourth-rounder to the Washington Capitals for veteran left winger Anthony Mantha. Later in the day, the Golden Knights sent little-used defenseman Daniil Miromanov and a pair of picks to the Calgary Flames for veteran blue-liner Noah Hanifin. (Vegas also sent a 2024 fifth-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in the deal.)

Cassidy said the 6-foot-5, 234-pound Mantha will make his debut on Thursday. Mantha has 20 goals and 34 points in 56 games this season and is expected to add some much-needed size and toughness.

A first-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2013, Mantha likely will play on a line with William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson.

“This is massive,” Mantha, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, said after flying to Las Vegas. “It’s a great chance for me to prove that I’ve still got it and to help the team win.”

Hanifin, 27, might end up as a short-term rental for the Golden Knights as he is headed toward unrestricted free agency following the season. He had 11 goals and 24 assists in 61 game this season for Calgary and can bring both a veteran presence and increased scoring to the Vegas defense.

The Golden Knights hope the pair can provide a spark after a disastrous five-game road trip that saw them go 1-3-1 while allowing 23 goals, including a combined 13 in their final two losses against Buffalo and Columbus.

“You’ve got to want it. We don’t want it right now. It’s very evident in our game,” Cassidy said after Vegas’ 6-3 loss to the Blue Jackets on Monday. “Our will to compete on pucks just isn’t good enough to win consistently in this league, and that’s exactly what we’re going through. We’re not winning consistently.”

It’s the final game of a three-game road trip for Vancouver. The trek began with a 2-1 victory at Anaheim on Sunday and was followed by a 2-1 overtime win at Los Angeles on Tuesday.

J.T. Miller scored on a one-timer during a delayed penalty 1:36 into OT to win it against the Kings. Defenseman Quinn Hughes picked up his 60th and 61st assists in the game. Elias Pettersson scored his 30th goal and Thatcher Demko made 23 saves to earn up his 32nd win, tied for the league lead.

“A couple of 2-1 hockey games,” Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet said. “That was kind of a playoff style (game). I just like the resolve.”

The Canucks, who lead the Western Conference with 87 points, play nine straight home games after the Thursday contest. They won’t play another road contest until April 2, when they return to Las Vegas to face the Golden Knights.

–Field Level Media


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