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Alex Tuch, Cody Eakin bring defense to Golden Knights’ third line

Updated March 16, 2019 - 5:11 pm

The Golden Knights’ third line isn’t carrying much of the scoring load right now.

But it’s not getting the team beat, either, and that’s what coach Gerard Gallant cares about.

Since Alex Tuch was put on the third line with center Cody Eakin, the two haven’t been on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal against, and they’re a combined plus-11.

“(They’re playing) solid hockey,” Gallant said. “I don’t care who scores or how many goals we get. It’s about winning hockey games, and I think our group’s the same way. Come out and play hard, play well, do the right things defensively and we’ll get enough goals to win.”

Tuch moved down to Eakin’s line after the Knights acquired Mark Stone on Feb. 25, putting two of the team’s top three forwards in plus-minus on a line together.

Eakin leads the team at plus-18 this season, and Tuch is plus-12. They’ve predictably formed a solid defensive partnership and contributed to the team’s 7-1 stretch, even though Eakin had three points in that span and Tuch had five.

“It’s been really good,” Tuch said. “He’s in the right spots, and he works really hard. It’s really easy to play with him.”

Reaves shakes off rust

Gallant is happy anytime his fourth line scores. But he was especially proud of Ryan Reaves’ decisive goal in the third period of a 2-1 victory at the Dallas Stars on Friday because the forward spent extra time on the bench during the game.

Penalties by both teams in the second period led to Reaves not getting his first shift until almost nine minutes into the frame.

“I could tell the big man, he was getting tight,” Gallant said. “It’s hard when you don’t get in the flow of the game. It’s good to see him score early in the third period, because he got back in the hockey game and scored a big goal. Anytime those (fourth-line) guys score, it’s huge for our team.”

Tuch, McDavid have history

Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid, who has 100 points this season, presents a daunting challenge for the Knights on Sunday when the teams meet at T-Mobile Arena. Tuch said that’s nothing new for him, because the two played with and against each other often during youth tournaments, starting with an event when Tuch was 11.

“He was really good, but he was a year younger,” Tuch said. “I wouldn’t say he was crazy until he was probably 14, 15, and then you’re like, ‘OK, this kid is unbelievable.’”

Injury updates

Gallant said forward William Carrier (upper body), who hasn’t played since Feb. 16, won’t play Sunday.

The coach also said he doesn’t know if forward Erik Haula, who had right knee surgery after getting injured Nov. 6, will play again this season.

Carrier and Haula are skating but haven’t practiced with the team.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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