Malcolm Subban was one of three reinforcements who arrived at Golden Knights practice Monday and proclaimed himself game ready.
To prove it, the goaltender took on all comers in a shootout competition at the end of the workout.
“It’s fun to get back into tracking the puck and getting the patience back,” Subban said. ‘The guys always like to work on shootouts, so it’s fun, too.”
Subban, who’s been out since Oct. 10 with a lower-body injury, was joined at practice by injured defenseman Nate Schmidt and wing Alex Tuch. All three were full participants in the 35-minute skate at City National Arena.
Coach Gerard Gallant said he did not know whether Schmidt or Tuch will be available when the Knights play host to Montreal on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.
“That’s huge for our team, and to have them out there practicing today, it’s real big and it’s a lot of fun,” Gallant said. “That’s the group. That’s the core group, and it’s good to get them back here for today’s practice.”
With the trio set to return and the Knights off for three days, defensemen Jake Bischoff and Nic Hague, center Nicolas Roy and goaltender Garret Sparks were reassigned to the American Hockey League. The Chicago Wolves play at the Tucson Roadrunners on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Once Schmidt and Tuch are activated from injured reserve, the roster would sit at 21. Barring any salary cap considerations, the Knights can recall up to two players prior to the game against Montreal on Thursday.
The health of defenseman Deryk Engelland also will factor into what happens. Engelland missed the third period of Sunday’s 5-2 win over Anaheim and did not skate Monday. Gallant said he was day to day with a minor lower-body injury.
“We all know that we’re a better team with them in the lineup, so it’s encouraging to see them out there,” left wing Max Pacioretty said of Schmidt and Tuch. “Hopefully, they can get up to speed as soon as possible and have a couple good practices and help the team kind of pick up where we left off on that last game.”
Subban was hurt late in the first period of the 4-1 loss at Arizona when Coyotes forward Nick Schmaltz was checked from behind by defenseman Jon Merrill and landed on Subban’s left leg.
Subban left during the first intermission and hasn’t been in the lineup the past nine games.
In his place, Oscar Dansk started at Philadelphia on Oct. 21 and stopped 31 of 37 shots in a 6-2 defeat. Sparks was recalled Wednesday and allowed two goals on 14 shots in relief of Marc-Andre Fleury in the 6-1 loss to Colorado on Friday.
“Two weeks felt like two months. It felt like forever,” Subban said. “You want to get in there and give your team a chance to win in that first one you’re out there. To happen the way it did after feeling pretty good in that first 20 minutes, it’s so frustrating.
“It wasn’t anything major, though. I tried to be patient these last couple weeks, but it was tough. I’m back now, so I’m just happy about that.”
Tuch participated in line rushes and drills at right wing with center Cody Eakin and left wing Cody Glass on the third line. He’s been out with an upper-body injury since Sept. 27 when he crashed into the end boards midway through the second period of a preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings at T-Mobile Arena.
Schmidt was hurt in the season opener Oct. 2 against San Jose when he took the brunt of a knee-on-knee collision with Sharks captain Logan Couture.
The Knights defense struggled in recent losses to Colorado, Philadelphia and Nashville in Schmidt’s absence.
“I think it definitely changes the dynamic of our defensive pairings, and it’s definitely good to add that back into the mix,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “He’s definitely a huge part of our group.”