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Reinforcements arrive for Golden Knights at forward

Updated October 18, 2021 - 2:45 pm

The Golden Knights’ five-day break between games appears to be paying dividends.

They received some much-needed reinforcements Monday two days after practicing with more defensemen than forwards.

Centers Nicolas Roy and Brett Howden, who are on injured reserve, and left wing William Carrier, who has been in concussion protocol, skated with the team for the first time in the regular season. Howden and Carrier were full participants. Roy wore a non-contact jersey.

The Knights could use all the bodies they can get up front. Left wing Mattias Janmark is in COVID-19 protocols, and left wing Max Pacioretty is week to week with a lower-body fracture. Captain Mark Stone, who left Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings in the second period, was seeing additional doctors Monday, coach Pete DeBoer said.

“We need them, right?” DeBoer said. “You start really testing the depth of the organization if we don’t start getting some of these guys back.”

The Knights already had to search for skaters to get through their first two games.

They’ve had three players, left wing Pavel Dorofeyev, center Jake Leschyshyn and right wing Jonas Rondbjerg, make their NHL debuts this season. That’s the same number of debuts they had all of last year.

The Knights were forced to dig into their depth after Roy, Howden and Carrier suffered injuries in the preseason. Roy was cross-checked Sept. 30 against the Kings and left the game early. Howden suffered a lower-body injury the same night. Carrier was kicked in the face by a skate Oct. 5 against the Colorado Avalanche.

The setback was particularly tricky for Howden, who was trying to get up to speed on the Knights’ systems after arriving this offseason via a trade with the New York Rangers.

“I thought each game I was getting better, but I think I still have more to improve,” Howden said. “It kind of sucks that I missed the last half of camp. I was just starting to feel a bit better and then that happened. But I’ve been feeling good these last few days. I’m excited to get back into the games.”

Roy, Howden and Carrier will have one additional practice to get themselves ready Tuesday before the Knights will have to decide if they can play Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues. Even if all three can go, the team will still be notably shorthanded without Pacioretty and possibly Stone.

Pacioretty, 32, led the Knights in goals each of the last two seasons and has the 10th-most in the NHL since the start of 2019-20 (58). Stone, 29, led the team in scoring last year and finished ninth in the Hart Trophy voting.

“They’re two top players in the league, and they do a good job of putting the puck in the back of the net,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “At the same time, I think we have good depth here. We have a lot of guys who now get their chance to step up and maybe play a different role. I think we have a lot of guys that can thrive in that and really excel.”

Without Stone and Pacioretty, the Knights had only 10 forwards at practice Monday. DeBoer did say 20-year-old rookie Peyton Krebs would likely have been with the team if he didn’t play two games over the weekend with the Silver Knights.

The Knights will need whoever they have up front to produce because they come out of their break into a difficult part of their schedule. Their next four opponents, St. Louis, Edmonton, the New York Islanders and Colorado, made the playoffs last year.

“We’re getting now into the meat of the schedule where you’re not going to get a chance to take a breath for a while here,” DeBoer said. “Good teams every night, playing every other day. I’m excited about it. We’re a little short staffed, but I’m excited about how we’re going to respond to that adversity. It’s not bad to have adversity, particularly early in the season.”

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

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