The Golden Knights took two more steps toward a full roster Thursday.
Forward James Neal and goaltender Malcolm Subban practiced without restrictions at City National Arena and are expected to be available for Friday’s game against the Minnesota Wild at T-Mobile Arena.
Coach Gerard Gallant said a decision will be made on each player after Friday’s morning skate, but the Knights have cleared spots by assigning forward Tomas Hyka and goaltender Maxime Lagace to Chicago of the American Hockey League on Thursday.
“It’s always tough when you’re sitting out,” said Subban, who sustained an upper-body injury Feb. 8 and last played Feb. 2 against the Wild, losing 5-2. “You don’t want to be out for a long period of time.”
The team gave Marc-Andre Fleury Thursday off after he allowed four goals in 11 shots and was pulled 2:31 into the second period of Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to New Jersey. Gallant didn’t say who his goaltender will be against the Wild, but Subban said he’s ready to see some action.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’ve been trying to pay attention to details, the little things that matter a lot. I just want to prepare and be ready.”
Neal, who has not played since Feb. 26 when he appeared to have injured his hand against Los Angeles, has battled injury and illness for nearly a month. He has played in only one of the Knights’ last 12 games.
“It sucks being hurt and not being around the guys,” said Neal, who is the team’s sixth-leading scorer with 40 points (24 goals, 16 assists). “But I’m looking forward to getting back.”
Gallant said it’s possible Neal will take Reilly Smith’s spot on the Knights’ top line if he’s in the lineup. Neal skated with William Karlsson at practice, as Jonathan Marchessault also had the day off.
Neal has skated with Erik Haula and David Perron most of the year on the second line.
“We’re not sure but we’re thinking about it,” Gallant said of Neal possibly moving up.
Smith skated on his own after practice, but there’s no timetable for his return. He was hurt March 6 at Columbus and has missed the last four games.
Wild without Spurgeon
The Wild will be without one of their top defensemen Friday. Jared Spurgeon is out four weeks after suffering a partial tear of his hamstring in Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to Colorado.
Minnesota has had at least one player out with an injury in 61 of its 70 games.
■ The Skinny: The Wild (39-24-7, 85 points) have lost two straight but are third in the Central Division and on track to reach the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
■ Top scorers: Center Eric Staal is tied for fourth in the league in goals with 37 and has a team-high 68 points; Mikael Granlund is second on the Wild in scoring with 57 points (19 goals, 38 assists).
■ Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk 30-14-5, 2.65 goals-against average, .915 save percentage.
■ Coach: Bruce Boudreau, second season, 88-49-15
■ Founded: 2000
■ Last Stanley Cup: None
■ Did you know: The ice sheet at Xcel Energy Center, the Minnesota Wild’s home arena, is made with water that was collected by fans from their favorite hockey ponds, lakes and rinks.
David Schoen Las Vegas Review-Journal