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3 takeaways: Knights cruise to win, but lose Hill to injury

Updated March 24, 2024 - 12:02 am

The good news: The Golden Knights ended their homestand strong heading into the most important road trip of the season.

The bad news: They might have to go on the road without Adin Hill.

The Knights defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 at T-Mobile Arena to finish their four-game homestand 3-1-0, but lost their goaltender to an undisclosed injury early in the third period.

Hill made a save four minutes into the final frame and left before the Knights (38-25-7) went on their first power play of the game.

Logan Thompson played the final 16 minutes in relief and stopped eight of nine shots.

Coach Bruce Cassidy did not have an update after the game, other than Hill was getting tests done.

The Knights leave for St. Louis early Sunday morning and will likely make a call when they meet at the team plane.

Thompson was scheduled to start against the Blues on Monday. It’s the Tuesday matchup against the Nashville Predators that is now brought into question.

“He came to the bench and said he wasn’t feeling 100 percent, so we made the switch,” Cassidy said. “Obviously if he’s not able to go, we’ll have to look to Henderson and get some help there. But right now, I don’t want to speculate.”

Hill’s injury comes at an inopportune time.

Though the win Saturday was much-needed, the trip begins with two important games — Monday against the Blues, whom the Knights lead by four points with a game in hand for the second wild card, and Tuesday facing the Predators and their franchise-record 17-game point streak.

Losing Hill is also a frustrating moment for the Stanley Cup-winning goalie. He missed nearly two months with a lower-body injury from Nov. 30 to Jan. 23. He returned Dec. 17 but played just six minutes before exiting against the Ottawa Senators.

Regardless, the Knights have plenty to feel good about heading into this trip.

The Knights felt they played well enough to earn all eight points this week, with the one exception being the 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

In those three wins, they held the opponent to under 25 shots on goal and kept opponents to four goals total.

Fortunately for the Knights on Saturday, they didn’t need either goalie to play their best. Their forechecking eventually took the game over.

After being outshot 10-8 in the first period, and trailing 1-0, the Knights outshot the Blue Jackets 39-12 in the final two periods and scored four times.

Center Jack Eichel scored twice to become the fifth fastest U.S.-born skater to reach 500 career points (204 goals, 297 assists), doing it in 527 games.

Left wings Ivan Barbashev and Pavel Dorofeyev scored for the Knights for their fifth win in seven games.

“We haven’t given them much,” defenseman Ben Hutton said of this recent stretch. “We’re limiting their chances, and we’re playing in their end a lot.”

Cassidy said the beginning of the game wasn’t a problem, but as the first period went on, the Blue Jackets (23-36-12) played better.

Columbus lost 6-1 to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. Playing a team on the second night of a back-to-back, the Knights knew they needed to correct things in a hurry.

“We knew we weren’t in trouble,” Cassidy said. “We had to get going, and we did.”

The attention now turns to Hill. While Thompson has played well recently, giving up two total goals in his last two starts, the chance his workload is increased could determine the Knights’ playoff hopes.

“Our overall game, I like where it’s at, and we’re going to need it,” Cassidy said. “It’s an important week.”

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Line changes pay off

Cassidy was looking for a spark with the second period starting. He shuffled the lines, and it paid off.

Eichel skated with Chandler Stephenson at left wing and Michael Amadio at right wing, while Nic Roy centered Eichel’s usual line with Jonathan Marchessault and Barbashev.

Barbashev tied it 1-1 at 3:31 of the second period after Roy won a faceoff and Barbshev scored from the slot. Eichel’s first goal came 1:26 later off a rebound.

“I thought we were able to read off each other well,” Eichel said. “I thought it was encouraging for the line to play well, and everyone chipped in.”

2. Eichel carries the scoring

On a night when he reached the 500-point mark, Eichel continued a scorching stretch of play.

Eichel has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in nine games since returning from lower-body surgery March 4. The center has 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists) in 51 games.

“It’s a cool milestone,” Eichel said. “I’ve played with a lot of really great players on some great teams. It’s awesome being a part of this organization, playing here every night and being a part of this group.”

3. Whitecloud contributes

In his return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past three games, defenseman Zach Whitecloud had an assist in 20:01 of ice time.

Whitecloud returned to his third-pairing role, playing on the right side of Hutton. His point shot was what allowed Eichel to score his first goal.

Top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo missed his third straight game due to an illness. His status for the road trip is up in the air.

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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