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The defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights go into their final regular-season game against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night in Las Vegas with a playoff spot secured but still plenty to play for.

Vegas (45-28-8, 98 points) enters the contest with a one-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings (43-27-11, 97 points) for third place in the Pacific Division.

A win over the Ducks and the Golden Knights can pack their bags for a Western Conference first-round playoff matchup against Connor McDavid and the second-place Edmonton Oilers. A loss and either a Los Angeles win or an overtime loss to visiting Chicago will drop Vegas into the second wild-card spot and an opening-round playoff series at Central Division winner Dallas because the Kings hold the regulation-wins tiebreaker.

Either way, the Golden Knights are looking forward to getting a chance to defend their title.

"The best time of the year is coming," center Nicolas Roy said after sealing a 3-1 victory over Chicago on Tuesday with an empty-net goal. "We're trying to get our game in the best spot possible. I don't think it was our best game tonight, but I think defensively we did a great job, enough to win. There's a great mood around the team, for sure."

Vegas brings a three-game winning streak into the contest with Anaheim and has won six in a row at T-Mobile Arena. A win over the Ducks would give them 100 points for the second straight season and for the third time in the franchise's seven seasons.

"I think guys are feeling good about our game," said forward Michael Amadio, who scored the game-winner against the Blackhawks. "It shows obviously with three straight wins. I think it's about consistency and bringing the same game every night."

Anaheim (26-50-5, 57 points) will finish seventh in the Pacific Division, one spot higher than in 2022-23. The Ducks, who are just 2-7-2 in their past 11 games and have lost two in a row, have had a four-day layoff since losing 3-1 at Los Angeles on Saturday.

"It's one game left and it can be easy to maybe check out," forward Troy Terry said, according to The Sporting Tribune. "But just making sure we feel good about how we ended and getting ready for that game and making sure we're going out there and competing."

One Ducks player who shouldn't have any trouble getting fired up to play is forward Cutter Gauthier, who will be making his NHL debut after signing a three-year entry-level contract on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Gauthier, obtained in a Jan. 8 trade from the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a 2025 second-round pick, was the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. He scored 38 goals for Frozen Four finalist Boston College, including an NCAA-best 10 game-winning goals, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the nation's top collegiate player.

"I'm pretty pumped," said Gauthier, who practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday with the Ducks. "It's been a dream for my whole life. Just getting here I've gotten chills, getting into the airport and meeting all the guys. It's been a real cool experience so far. I can't wait until Thursday comes."

--Field Level Media

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