A dinged-up Golden Knights defense means more playing time for Brad Hunt.
The veteran is one of six healthy defenseman and will be in the lineup Saturday when the first-place Knights host the struggling Edmonton Oilers at 7 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena.
“When I’m in the lineup, I’ve just got to play my game and help the team be successful,” Hunt said Friday after the team’s late-afternoon practice at City National Arena. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The five-day bye wasn’t enough time for defenseman Jon Merrill to heal from his undisclosed injury, and he remains on the injured-reserve list.
Merrill did not participate in either of the Knights’ two 30-minute practices that were conducted in front of a standing room-only crowd.
Defenseman Luca Sbisa was placed on IR on Wednesday and will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery on his left hand.
Hunt played in Sunday’s 2-1 win over the New York Rangers, his first appearance since Dec. 9 at Dallas. In 18 games this season, Hunt has seven assists.
”We’re excited to give him another opportunity again,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “He’s played well, and we always talk about depth at the blue line, and now we’re getting tested a little bit.”
Hunt was alongside familiar partner Colin Miller at Friday’s practices and also saw time working with the Knights’ No. 2 power-play unit.
”He’s a lot of fun to play with,” Hunt said. “He makes it easy for me. We read off each other really well.”
Fun in the sun
Several Knights players used the bye to enjoy a quick getaway in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
A picture posted on Erik Haula’s verified Instagram account of the shirtless crew on a sailboat had almost 5,000 likes on Friday evening.
“It wasn’t like Cabo Spring Break 2018 or something like that because of the timing, but we had an unbelievable time,” forward Alex Tuch said. “We’re a group of guys that came together and the chemistry started right away on and off the ice. I think I have lifelong friends, honestly. Hopefully, I’ll be playing with those guys for a really long time.”
Who: Oilers vs. Golden Knights
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: T-Mobile Arena
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757)
Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM); ESPN Deportes (1460 AM)
Line: Not available
1. Avoid bye week blues. The Knights are coming off their bye week and well aware of what happened last season when just 10 of the NHL’s 30 teams won their first game back. Expect a strong effort.
2. Payback. The Knights’ worst loss and their only division setback was at Edmonton, 8-2 on Nov. 14. The Knights figure to have plenty of motivation.
3. Dealing with McDavid. NHL star Connor McDavid will test out T-Mobile Arena for the first time. The Knights must take away his time and space or face a long night. He had two goals and an assist Nov. 14.
7 p.m. Saturday, T-Mobile Arena
— The Skinny: The Oilers have been one of the NHL’s most disappointing team, after many predicted they would compete for the Stanley Cup title. Edmonton is sixth in the Pacific Division with 39 points (18-23-3).
— Top scorers: Center Connor McDavid leads the Oilers with 48 points (15 goals, 33 assists). Center Leon Draisaitl has 11 goals and 34 points, and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 15 goals and 30 points.
— Goaltender: Cam Talbot, 15-16-2, 3.09 goals-against average, .902 save percentage.
— Coach: Todd McLellan, third season, 96-92-20
— Founded: 1972. Joined NHL in 1979
— Last Stanley Cup: 1990
— Did you know: The Oilers’ five Stanley Cup championships over a seven-year span resulted in the team being granted “Dynasty” status by the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Steve Carp Review-Journal