|Golden Knights-Predators clash features Subban-Subban undercard|
Of all the compelling storylines for Friday night's game between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Nashville Predators, one towers above all others as though it were the Pinnacle Building rising over Music City.
For the first time in a regular-season game, Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban will try to shoot pucks past his brother, Vegas goalie Malcolm Subban. Father Karl Subban will be watching, part of the Golden Knights' first Fathers' Trip.
There was a Subban vs. Subban matchup in a 2013 Montreal-Boston exhibition game, when P.K. was playing for the Canadiens and Malcolm was a prospect with the Bruins. But that can't come close to carrying the importance of this matchup.
"Maybe that's part of his thing, not letting me shoot on him so I don't know where to go," P.K. Subban joked after practice Thursday. "But I'll find a way tomorrow."
Both teams have found ways to win all season. That could have been expected of the Predators (18-7-3), who played for the Stanley Cup last spring and are 13-2-1 in their last 16 games, including a 5-2 win Tuesday night in Dallas.
On the other hand, no one could have possibly expected Vegas to sail through the first third of its inaugural season at 17-9-1. It is 11-2-0 on home ice, rallying for a 4-3 shootout win Tuesday night over Anaheim to stay four points behind first-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division.
If the playoffs started now, the Golden Knights would not only be there, but would have home-ice advantage for the first round. Coach Gerard Gallant has done a masterful job molding this team into one that can win every night, and the NHL's decision to limit who teams could protect has given Vegas a better roster than any expansion team has ever iced.
Case in point: The guy who will celebrate a homecoming of sorts in this one. Right winger James Neal, who Nashville didn't want to give up but had to in order to protect center Calle Jarnkrok due to concerns about its depth at the pivot, has pumped in 13 goals for the Golden Knights.
"I really enjoyed my time in Nashville," Neal said. "It's always weird going back to play the team you once played for. You have those mixed emotions and you don't know how you'll feel. I'll just try to focus on the game."
Neal will probably get a warm welcome back from the fans, who remember his overtime game-winner in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals last spring in Anaheim and a key goal in Game 3 of the Cup Finals that helped the Predators notch a 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh.
But Neal and the rest of Vegas' explosive offense -- William Karlsson has 14 goals and Jonathan Marchessault has potted 10 -- will have to put pucks by Pekka Rinne (16-4-2, 2.38 goals-against average, .926 save percentage). In his last game, a 5-3-win Monday night over Boston, Rinne stopped 37 shots.
Malcolm Subban (6-2-0, 2.26, .923) recently returned to action after missing more than a month with a lower-body injury. Subban blanked Anaheim in the shootout Tuesday night, earning praise from Gallant.
"I thought he played really well and strong," Gallant said. "It just shows the kid is getting better and more confident.
The Golden Knights could welcome back starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) as soon as Saturday night in Dallas. Fleury, the team's marquee pick in the expansion draft from Pittsburgh, hasn't played since Oct. 13.