Cody Eakin didn’t need to worry about winning a job with the Golden Knights.
But the veteran solidified his grip as the No. 2 center with Thursday’s performance.
Eakin was arguably the best player on the ice for the Knights and picked up an assist in their 4-2 loss to Colorado at T-Mobile Arena before an announced crowd of 15,337.
“I feel pretty good. My legs are feeling pretty good. Timing’s coming along,” Eakin said. “Everything’s feeling pretty good, but it’s still exhibition games, and we’ll start ramping it up here. Keep the legs going, practicing crisp passes, but I feel pretty good.”
Eakin is coming off the worst statistical season of his career, as he scored three goals and had nine points in 60 games for Dallas.
He scored Tuesday against Los Angeles and has four points in three preseason games this season.
Against the Avalanche, Eakin logged 20:06 of ice time — more than any other Knights forward — and set up Shea Theodore’s goal in the third period that brought the Knights within 3-2.
“It all kind of falls together as a five-man unit, and everyone had their part in it,” Eakin said. “That’s the way goals go in.”
In addition to his offensive contribution, Eakin won 15 of his 19 faceoffs (79 percent).
“You want to start with the puck, offensively and defensively, power play, penalty kill,” Eakin said. “I’m in a lot of the opportunities right now to start, so it’s my job to win them.”
Colin Miller also scored for the Knights, who went 0-for-7 on the power play against Colorado.
“I think guys want to make good plays, sometimes too good of plays, so we’ve got to find our little niche where we can simplify and have that five-on-five mentality instead of trying to make a cuter play, especially when we’re not too familiar with each other,” Eakin said of the power play.
Sven Andrighetto had a goal and an assist, and Tyson Jost, Nail Yakupov and Mikko Rantanen also scored for the Avalanche, who dropped a 4-1 decision to the Knights on Sept. 19.
The Knights close out the preseason Sunday against San Jose.
Forward James Neal continues to participate in team practices as his surgically repaired right hand heals, and coach Gerard Gallant said he’s seeing daily progress.
“He’s getting better and more comfortable being out on the ice and working with his teammates,” Gallant said.
As to when Neal will play, Gallant said: “We’ll see how he’s doing. He’s probably not playing Sunday (vs. San Jose). As for the season opener (Oct. 6 in Dallas), we should have a better idea next week.”
Neal has not participated in the Knights first six preseason games. He began skating Monday.
In the crease
Goaltender Dylan Ferguson signed a three-year, entry-level contract, the team announced Thursday. The 19-year-old will play this season with Kamloops in the Western Hockey League.
Contact David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.
Quick analysis from Thursday’s 4-2 preseason loss to the Colorado Avalanche:
1. Ship Shot. Vadim Shipachyov recorded a shot on goal 1:35 into the second period when his backhander from close range was stopped by Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the playmaking center didn’t record a shot in his first two preseason games and got some heat after passing up a scoring opportunity Tuesday against Los Angeles.
2. Powerless on PP. The Knights entered the game fourth in the league on the power play at 25.8 percent, but were held scoreless with the man advantage for the second straight game. The Knights finished 0-for-7 on the power play and are 0 for their last 16 dating to Sunday’s game in Anaheim.
3. Smith stuffed. Reilly Smith was turned aside by Varlamov on a breakaway in the second period. The Knights forward had another chance in the third but also was stopped. Usually, getting stopped on a breakaway keeps a player up at night. But having it happen twice? “It puts you right to sleep,” Smith said.
— David Schoen Las Vegas Review-Journal