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Golden Knights center Cody Eakin makes do with less ice time

Updated October 17, 2018 - 7:17 pm

There are multiple examples of Golden Knights players who were given a larger role and made the most of the opportunity with their new team.

Cody Eakin is not one of them.

In truth, he’s the opposite.

Eakin’s ice time with the Knights is down significantly from what he averaged during his five seasons in Dallas.

But following a period of adjustment, the 27-year-old has settled into his role as a third-line center and penalty killer.

Eakin has three goals in four games since returning from a lower-body injury Oct. 10 at Washington, including the game-winner in the Knights’ past two outings.

“For me, it’s always been a lot more minutes, 17, 18 (per game) kind of thing,” Eakin explained. “When you’re skating like that, you’re really into the game and stuff like that. To play a little less, it took a little while wondering if you wanted to be out there more. But that’s the way you fit into a team.”

Eakin averaged 16:41 of ice time per game over his career with the Stars and often saw time in a top-six forward role. During the 2013-14 season, Eakin averaged a career-high 17:20 of ice time and posted 16 goals and 19 assists.

The following year, he finished with a career-best 19 goals and 40 points in 17:12 per game.

Eakin logged more than 20 minutes of ice time in five of the Knights’ first seven games last season before Erik Haula established himself as the No. 2 center and coach Gerard Gallant moved Eakin into a defensive role.

After Oct. 30, Eakin played more than 16 minutes in a game on eight occasions and was forced to remake his game to suit the Knights’ needs. He averaged 14:32 of ice time in 80 appearances.

“It took a little while to adjust, I think, and switching a lot of linemates,” Eakin said. “But once we as a team started getting the hang of all our roles and the hang of the systems and everything, things became more concrete and … I feel like I started being more effective.”

Eakin insisted he wasn’t fueled by any trade rumors, but after producing seven goals and 13 assists in 60 games prior to the Feb. 26 deadline, he had four goals and three assists in 20 games afterward.

Eakin added three goals and an assist in 20 postseason appearances and averaged 14:29 of ice time.

“He always works hard and does everything right,” linemate Ryan Carpenter said. “He’s always been that centerman and real solid from the center out. Just being defensively responsible, it really helps our line and creates offense for us.”

Eakin is averaging 13:43 of ice time in four appearances and provided the only goal in the Knights’ 1-0 victory at Philadelphia when he dived for a loose puck and then broke free from Selke Award candidate Sean Couturier in the offensive zone.

In the Knights’ 4-1 victory over Buffalo on Tuesday, Eakin bodied Conor Sheary off the puck at the Knights’ blue line and finished off a short-handed, 2-on-1 break himself early in the second period.

But it’s his defensive work that’s stood out, especially in the faceoff circle. Eakin is winning 62.1 percent faceoffs overall this season, up from 52.1 percent last season, and is 5-1 on draws during short-handed play.

“To be honest with you, from the trade deadline last year to right through the playoffs up until this year, he’s played real good, strong hockey,” Gallant said. “Probably added a little more offense than I thought he had.

“I really like what he’s doing, and he’s played really well since his injury. I thought he finished last year outstanding. He’s a real competitor, and he’s played real complete hockey.”

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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