DETROIT — Finally, there was some good news for the Golden Knights on the injury front.
Forward Reilly Smith remains with the team and was listed day-to-day by coach Gerard Gallant prior to Thursday’s game with the Detroit Red Wings. Smith suffered an upper-body injury late in the second period of Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to Columbus and did not return.
The other good news involved defenseman Nate Schmidt. Gallant said Schmidt will join the team in Buffalo on Friday and is expected to be in the lineup Saturday when the Knights face the Sabres.
Smith not needing to return to Las Vegas to see the team’s doctors was a positive sign. He didn’t skate Thursday and was not in the lineup against Detroit. Tomas Tatar took Smith’s place on the Knights’ top line of William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault.
“It’s a big relief he’s not going to be out long-term,” Karlsson said of Smith, who is tied for second with David Perron for the most points with 60. “But (Tatar) is a highly skilled player and I think he’ll fit in with our line.”
Schmidt has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury. But he has been skating the past few days at City National Arena and his return will take a lot of pressure off the defensive corps.
As for forward James Neal, Gallant said he did not know if Neal would join the team for the remainder of the five-game trip which concludes in Philadelphia Monday. Neal, who missed his fifth straight game Thursday, has also been skating on his own after being injured Feb. 26 against Los Angeles with an apparent hand injury.
Knights sign college player
The Knights announced Thursday they had signed college free agent defenseman Zach Whitecloud of Bemidji State University to a three-year entry-level contract. It’s the team’s first college free agent signing.
Whitecloud, 21, had four goals and 14 assists in 36 games in his sophomore season and in his two years at Bemidji, the 6-foot-1-inch, 196-pound defenseman had seven goals and 29 assists in 77 games. He will join the Knights in Buffalo Friday but how much he plays at the NHL level has yet to be determined.
“He’s a mobile defenseman who moves the puck real well and he’s a safe player right now,” general manager George McPhee said of Whitecloud, who will wear No. 2 with the Knights. “He has lots of room for growth.
“He could (play). The benefit of having him here is he can really learn a lot.”
With Smith out, Tomas Hyka was back in the lineup Thursday. Hyka skated with Erik Haula and David Perron on the Knights’ second line.
“Those are two fast guys so I just want to keep up with them and help the line,” Hyka said.
Hyka found himself returned to Chicago of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, but was recalled Thursday. However, he never left the Knights and was spared the hassle of shuttling between Chicago and Detroit as it was more of a bookkeeping task for McPhee.