The addition of winger Mark Stone has given the Golden Knights a physical two-way presence on the right side of their second line.
It also gave their first line a kick in the pants.
William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith saw how teammates Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty played with Stone and decided not to get left behind.
“They make us want to be better, too,” Karlsson said. “Thanks to them for showing the way. We want to be just as good as them.”
Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith didn’t want to be a first line in name only, so they’ve raised their play after the trade deadline. In the Knights’ past three games, all wins, they have combined for six points (three goals, three assists).
They’ve also been on the ice for 19 scoring chances for and 14 against. Stone, Stastny and Pacioretty’s line has been a part of 23 scoring chances for and 17 against in the same span.
“I think they feel real good, they feel real confident,” coach Gerard Gallant said of the first line. “When we made the trade for Stone, I think a lot of people said, ‘Let’s get going. We’re a better team than this.’ I think everybody feels better about themselves.”
Forward Alex Tuch scored his first goal since Jan. 23 on Friday when he got behind the defense and beat Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson with a backhand shot.
It broke a stretch of 14 games without a goal for the talented 22-year-old, who is fourth on the team with 17 goals.
Tuch had four assists during his scoreless streak, but also endured a seven-game stretch without a point.
“I didn’t think he had the energy (the last couple weeks),” Gallant said. “I think he looked a little sluggish, a little tired. He played fine. He wasn’t costing us anything, but I expect a lot from him. He’s a young player who has played really well this season. But they’re going to go through those little slumps like he did.”
Gallant said he was expecting optimistic news about forward William Carrier when he met with the training staff Saturday afternoon.
“I think he’s going to go on the ice soon,” Gallant said of the physical forward. “We’ll know a little bit more later today.”
Carrier missed more than a month with an upper-body injury before returning Feb. 9. He played in four games before suffering another upper-body injury during a win over Nashville on Feb. 16.
“It’s been a little more than two weeks,” Gallant said. “He’s getting better. Hopefully (we’ll have him back) within the next couple weeks.”