Updated April 29, 2023 - 9:57 pm
The Golden Knights busted out a drill at Saturday’s practice at City National Arena that coach Bruce Cassidy estimated they hadn’t used since training camp.
They have some time on their hands, so they might as well use it rehearsing situational hockey like four-on-four.
After winning their first-round series Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets, the Knights took Friday off, returned to the rink Saturday and will rest again Sunday as they wait for their second-round playoff series with Edmonton to begin. Their schedule isn’t set, as the first round could go as late as Monday.
“Physically, we’re in a pretty good spot,” captain Mark Stone said. “Mentally, we’re in a good spot. We feel we’re playing really good hockey. We just have to keep maintaining that. Rest is important. We have to keep our mentality focused on what our goals are, and that’s getting a good start to the next series.”
The Knights did come out of the Jets series in good shape.
Their only nonhealthy scratches in the series were defensemen Brayden McNabb (upper-body injury) and Shea Theodore (illness) in Game 5. Theodore was back at practice Saturday, and Cassidy said he anticipates Theodore will be ready for the start of the second round. McNabb is considered day to day.
The Knights got two key pieces of their lineup back in Stone and left wing William Carrier. Stone played for the first time since undergoing back surgery Jan. 31 and was tied for the series lead with eight points. Carrier returned in Game 5 for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury March 3 and dished out a team-leading six hits.
“The hitting part is pretty easy, right?” Carrier said. “It’s more the hands and the offensive part of it (that takes time).”
The Knights want to strike a balance during this break with so many players available to them.
Stone, Carrier and Theodore — who also missed seven of the final eight regular-season games with a lower-body injury — could use practice time to keep knocking rust off. Other players, such as defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, would benefit from more time off. Pietrangelo played 25:53 per game against Winnipeg, 4:14 more than the next-closest Knights player.
Cassidy settled on the one practice day this weekend surrounded by two off days after consulting with the players. That should give them all time to relax — Stone said they went out for drinks Thursday night as a group — while leaving enough prep time for the Oilers.
“(We’re) kind of riding a big wave,” Carrier said. “The emotions everyone’s riding are pretty high. It would be nice to get nice back into it, but it’s nice to have a break at the same time.”