LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Kurtis Gabriel is certainly doing his part to keep the San Jose Sharks-Vegas Golden Knights rivalry going. This morning, he challenged Ryan Reaves and commented on Max Pacioretty’s “dirty hit.”
Also, if San Jose manages to get a power play tonight, how will they beat the vaunted Vegas penalty kill? SPORTLOGiQ identifies a key vulnerability.
San Jose Sharks (11-12-3)
— Locked on Sharks (@LockedOnSharks) March 17, 2021
Vegas Golden Knights (19-6-1)
Where to Watch
Puck drop is 7:00 PM PT at T-Mobile Arena. Watch it on NBC Sports Bay Area, AT&T Sportsnet, or NHL.tv.
Kurtis Gabriel, as usual, wasn’t mincing any words today.
First, Gabriel confirmed that he’s playing tonight. This was in question after Gabriel stepped out for practice yesterday, then immediately stepped off. He did not return to practice.
“Ready to go after that dirty hit,” Gabriel said. “I really didn’t appreciate that. I’m a guy that hits everybody, but cleanly. I’ve only had the one suspension in my life, obviously on Patrick, just a hockey play gone wrong, didn’t mean to do that.”
Gabriel (29) was referring to this Max Pacioretty (67) hit — audio left in on purpose:
“Puck squeaked out to the neutral zone. And their d-man was pulling the puck back for a long re-group. I was maybe 40 feet from the puck. I just tried to keep my speed, get up as a F1 in the forecheck and their player decided to step in my way, plant himself,” Gabriel noted. “I’m all for guys holding guys up, but you can’t plant yourself like that. An unsuspecting player, I went flying and fell right on my hip. That’s a dirty play, in my opinion.”
For what it’s worth, this Pacioretty pick is not that dissimilar to his Mar. 5 hit on Logan Couture:
If you had Pacioretty and Couture as the first tussle tonight, good on you for a lot of money.
— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) March 6, 2021
“I’ll be looking for a pound of flesh tonight,” Gabriel said.
But will Gabriel be looking for it from Pacioretty…or Ryan Reaves?
The shift before Pacioretty’s under-handed play, Reaves (75) appears to hit Mario Ferraro (38) hard (but cleanly) – regardless, Gabriel challenges the Vegas strongman:
“He likes to throw hits and not answer the bell for them. I guess kudos to them, they won the game. But the game within the game, he lost that one. He hit Mario Ferraro; I didn’t like it,” Gabriel offered. “He didn’t want to answer the bell. I made a hit in Anaheim and Nic Deslauriers wanted me to answer the bell. So it’s just usually how it goes.”
On the one hand, Gabriel must be careful about drawing an extra penalty on plays like that. On the other hand, it must feel good for the San Jose Sharks to know that someone’s going to fight for you for just about any reason.
SPORTLOGiQ Pre-Game Stat of the Night
The Golden Knights’ fifth-ranked PK is intimidating. As I noted in my last Game Preview, they’re top-five in the NHL in a whopping six SPORTLOGiQ micro-stat categories – basically, there’s no obvious weakness in this unit.
But regardless, a key vulnerability stands out that the San Jose Sharks may be able to take advantage of tonight: Vegas is just 20th in the NHL in Short-Handed % of Defensive Zone Rebounds Recovered. Basically, if you manage to get a shot through – and that’s the big challenge – you stand a good chance of getting to the rebound first.
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