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Knights could get 2 forwards back to start 7-game homestand

Updated January 4, 2023 - 4:07 pm

Nicolas Roy knew he was in for something different when he showed up for the Golden Knights’ Wednesday practice and saw a white jersey hanging in his locker stall at City National Arena.

Roy is normally in gray as a bottom-six forward. But the Knights got enough injured players back Wednesday to mix things up.

The Knights switched some of their forward lines because center Jack Eichel and rookie left wing Paul Cotter practiced fully with the team as they recover from lower- and upper-body injuries, respectively. Coach Bruce Cassidy said Eichel and Cotter should play Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins as long as they don’t have any setbacks. Right wing Jonathan Marchessault, who skated Wednesday in a no-contact jersey, could return from his lower-body injury Saturday.

That’s huge news for the Knights as they begin a season-long, seven-game homestand at T-Mobile Arena. Their recent schedule has been a grind with so many players leaving the lineup.

“The guys did a good job when they were out, but obviously it’s going to change the dynamic of the team,” Roy said. “It’s three really good players. Pretty excited to have them back.”

Getting Eichel back on the ice is a major boost.

He was their leading scorer with 29 points in 26 games when he was injured Dec. 3 in Detroit. He played against Philadelphia on Dec. 9 after missing three games, but couldn’t keep playing after that game and has sat out 11 straight since.

“(It) took a minute to figure out exactly what was going on,” said Eichel, who did not specify what his injury was. “We’ve had a good treatment plan from (the) beginning of December. You just got to be patient.”

Eichel’s return gives Cassidy a chance to experiment with the forward lines.

Left wing Michael Amadio is on a career-best seven-game point streak since joining the top group with center Chandler Stephenson and captain Mark Stone. They have clicked well enough that Cassidy isn’t forced to return Eichel to that line and move Stephenson back to left wing.

“(Amadio’s) played well up there, so there’s no use messing with that right now,” Cassidy said. “To me, it’s a win-win. They’re both good choices no matter what we do.”

Instead, Cassidy is going to try spreading out the forward talent. Eichel skated with Roy and left wing Reilly Smith on Wednesday. Center William Karlsson was with right wing Phil Kessel and Cotter, who has missed the past eight games.

The setup is similar to the one the Knights came out of training camp with. Eichel, Stephenson and Karlsson each getting his own line should give the team a chance to match up with most opponents. That could especially be true if the Knights reach full health.

Along with Marchessault, the Knights are expected to be without injured center Brett Howden and defensemen Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez, Zach Whitecloud and Daniil Miromanov against the Penguins.

But getting Eichel and Cotter back is a good first step for the Knights. They’re 18-7-1 with Eichel in the lineup and 7-5-1 without him. His return could go a long way toward helping the team maintain its spot atop the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings.

“We’ve been playing really well,” Eichel said. “It’s a resilient group. Different guys are stepping up every night. … It always stinks watching. It’s been a lot of fun watching the guys find ways to get points every night.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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