The T-Mobile Arena ice shined a little brighter Tuesday with the addition of Brad Hunt’s smile.
The veteran defenseman is well known for the positive energy he brings to the Golden Knights’ locker room and he couldn’t stop beaming before his season debut against the Buffalo Sabres. It was the 79th game of Hunt’s five-year career, but he almost made it sound like it was his first.
“Anytime you get a chance to play in the NHL, it’s a special thing,” Hunt said. “You never want to take it for granted. You just want to go out there, work as hard as you can and go from there.”
Hunt, 30, replaced an injured Deryk Engelland in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the first six games. It was his first meaningful action at T-Mobile Arena since the Knights final regular season home game on March 30 because he didn’t appear in any playoff games.
He acknowledged Tuesday morning it might take him a few shifts to get back in the flow of things, but he credited assistant coach Ryan McGill with keeping him in game shape.
“I just want to keep things simple and get back to fast-playing hockey,” Hunt said. “(Bring) positivity. Just get everybody going.”
Coach Gerard Gallant put a lot on the 5-foot-9-inch blue liner’s plate in his first game because Hunt went right onto the top power-play unit. With the Knights starting the year 0-for-16 on the power play, Gallant hoped Hunt’s offensive skills could give the team a spark.
The Knights had their first power-play goal by the end of the first period. And Hunt started the rush that culminated in Jonathan Marchessault’s shot past goaltender Carter Hutton.
It must be that smile.
“He’s got great vision, he shoots the puck real well,” Gallant said. “He lugs the puck up the ice real good.”
Cross them off
The Knights finished their regular-season series with the Sabres on Tuesday, after finishing their one with the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
The earliest they finished a season series last year was Nov. 2, 2017 against the Boston Bruins.
“It makes it easier for the scouting report for sure,” Gallant said.
Odds and ends
— Winger Alex Tuch, who is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, and Deryk Engelland, who is day to day with an undisclosed injury, skated together after the Knights morning skate.
— Defenseman Jake Bischoff practiced with the Knights for the first time since being recalled from the American Hockey League on Sunday. He and forward Oscar Lindberg were the team’s healthy scratches Tuesday.