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Knights hope returning stars can boost slumping power play

William Karlsson’s return didn’t fix the Golden Knights’ struggling power play.

But there are signs of life.

The Knights scored their first power-play goal in five games during a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Monday. They felt they were capable of even more after finishing 1-for-5 on the man advantage. It’s something for them to build off heading into their game against the Carolina Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.

“We had a lot of opportunities,” said Karlsson, who played his third game since returning from a lower-body injury. “We should score more and I feel like we can be better for sure. We had some chances, especially on the last one. It just wasn’t good enough, so we have to fix that.”

The Knights are 1-for-8 since Karlsson came back. They’re 2-for-19 their last eight games. They’re scoring on 19.8 percent of their opportunities this season, which ranks 19th in the NHL.

Injuries are part of the problem. Karlsson’s absence hurt and center Jack Eichel hasn’t played since Jan. 11 because of a lower-body injury that required surgery. That’s left center Chandler Stephenson to carry the puck into the zone by himself.

Coach Bruce Cassidy said Eichel’s absence leaves the Knights (31-16-6) without someone who can create a goal on their own. Defenseman Shea Theodore, who should return next week from an upper-body injury, has also been missed. Theodore can thread passes between defenders to create chances from the blue line.

The Knights should get better on the power play as they get healthier. But it’s not a magic wand. There are still other issues Cassidy wants to fix.

“I don’t think we sustain enough pressure. That’s puck recovery and willingness to get pucks back and it’s been a year and a half of that,” Cassidy said. “That’s a mindset we have to build in and have tried to build in and will continue to build in. I think we force plays that aren’t there. That’s a puck management issue and it hurts us five-on-five sometimes as well.”

Cassidy said the Knights’ power play is at its best when they play with pace. They did so at times against Minnesota. Just not enough to convert more than one of their opportunities.

The Knights want to turn things around for reasons that go beyond scoring goals. They don’t want to keep handing opponents momentum after a successful penalty kill.

“It can really suck some life out of you if you can’t generate much,” Cassidy said. “You’ve got your top guys out there and now they’re not feeling good about themselves, while the other team gets a lot of juice from the kill.”

The Knights hope that happens less going forward.

Theodore and Eichel will help when they return. Karlsson wants to provide more of a boost as well after getting his legs back under him.

He has a goal and an assist since returning to the lineup. But he had four goals and 11 points on the power play in 38 games before his injury. He wants to make an impact on special teams again.

“It all depends on how the opponents kill, but we are best when we get it low and go from there,” Karlsson said. “If we can continue like that, I think we’ll have some great chances.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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