WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Cody Eakin stepped onto the ice for the start of the Golden Knights’ morning skate Tuesday at Bell MTS Place and saw a familiar face.
And since the ice sheet still was setting up from being resurfaced moments earlier, Eakin had time to wave at his preschool-aged nephew sitting near the bench and share a few words.
“He’s at that age where his curiosity is overwhelming, and what better than to show him a little pregame skate?” Eakin said. “It’s great. I only get to do it once, so it’s short and sweet this time. It’s always fun to see some family and friends.”
Eakin is one of two Winnipeg natives on the roster, but he has been overshadowed on this trip by teammate Ryan Reaves, who was in demand by their hometown media after his goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final clinched the series for the Knights.
Eakin has 13 goals and 25 points and is on pace to pass his career highs, which he set with Dallas in 2014-15 with 19 goals and 40 points.
This is the Knights’ only visit to Eakin’s hometown during the regular season. The teams meet at T-Mobile Arena on Feb. 22 and March 21.
Last season, Eakin made then-teammate Brendan Leipsic, also a Winnipeg native, pay for the tickets Eakin gave to family members. With no rookies around this time, Eakin had to foot the bill.
“You kind of get it out after a while, as far as the nerves and stuff,” Eakin said. “But it’s still fun.”
The Knights entered Tuesday’s game 8-1-1 in their past 10, which normally would create some separation in the standings.
But not in the Pacific Division.
Along with Calgary and San Jose, the three frontrunners were a combined 24-3-3 in their past 10 games. And two of those regulation losses were head-to-head, with the Knights losing to San Jose on Thursday and Calgary defeating the Sharks on New Years’s Eve.
Meanwhile, the rest of the division has been left in the dust. Anaheim, losers of 12 straight — including 3-1 Tuesday at Detroit — and Vancouver each trail the Knights by 13 points.
Defenseman Colin Miller was a full participant in the morning skate Tuesday — the third straight practice for which he’s been on the ice — but remained on injured reserve. He has missed the past 13 games with an upper-body injury.
Injured forward Reilly Smith (undisclosed) was not on the ice for the morning skate and there is no timetable for his return.