Updated March 18, 2022 - 4:08 pm
Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer jokingly requested an exorcism be performed Friday on City National Arena as the injuries continued to mount.
That might be the only way out of the cycle in which the Knights find themselves.
The Knights continued their one-step-forward, one-step-back injury dance with center Jack Eichel listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game against Los Angeles at T-Mobile Arena with an upper-body injury.
That dour status report on the Knights’ marquee trade acquisition was only slightly offset by DeBoer’s update that goaltender Robin Lehner is expected to return at some point this season.
Eichel stood in front of a shot by Florida defenseman MacKenzie Weegar with about five minutes remaining in the second period of Thursday’s 5-3 victory over the Panthers. The puck appeared to hit Eichel in the right hand, and he was in obvious pain while gliding to the bench.
After being looked at by the trainer, Eichel took one more shift in the second period, but did not come out for third.
The Knights were still awaiting Eichel’s test results Friday morning. DeBoer said the injury is a “big concern.”
“It could be anywhere from a couple of days to more than that,” DeBoer said.
Eichel picked up an assist before leaving and was starting to find his game after artificial disk replacement surgery on his neck in November. He has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 15 games since being activated Feb. 16.
The Knights can ill afford to lose any more offense in the midst of a playoff battle with 19 games remaining. They are already missing their second- and third-leading goal scorers (left wing Max Pacioretty and right wing Reilly Smith), not to mention last year’s leading scorer (captain Mark Stone).
“With all the injuries we’ve had, guys had to step up, including myself,” forward Nolan Patrick said.
DeBoer sounded more optimistic on Lehner’s status after saying Thursday there was “ambiguity” about when he would be available.
Lehner is dealing with an assortment of injuries, including a lower-body ailment he sustained March 8 at Philadelphia that was severe enough that he needed to be sent home from the road trip for further evaluation.
Daily Faceoff reported the injury is a fractured patella that could sideline Lehner for the remainder of the regular season, a claim Lehner denied on Twitter. He also is reportedly playing through a torn labrum in his shoulder.
“Heading in a positive direction. I think he’s excited to get back,” DeBoer said. “I don’t have a time frame yet, but I don’t think it’s far off.”
Lehner’s health continues to be the biggest question mark for the Knights approaching Monday’s trade deadline.
If his return is on the horizon, general manager Kelly McCrimmon can hold off on acquiring a netminder and hope Laurent Brossoit and Logan Thompson can hold down the fort until Lehner returns.
Otherwise, the Knights might be forced to explore a goaltending market that lacks star power. The names most often mentioned as potential trade targets are Alexandar Georgiev of the New York Rangers, Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo and Ottawa’s Anton Forsberg.