**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
Every hockey team has to deal with injuries. But the successful ones manage theirs better.
The Golden Knights have been tested earlier than most teams. They started this season without forwards Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin, two key components. Then they lost defenseman Nate Schmidt on opening night after he and San Jose’s Logan Couture collided in the 1st period.
And of course, no injury report would be complete without including goaltender Malcom Subban, who got hurt Thursday in Arizona and forcing Marc-Andre Fleury to work on what was supposed to be a night off.
The Knights’ ability to manage their injuries has varied in their brief existence. They somehow were able to survive after Fleury sustained a concussion early in the inaugural season and wound up missing two months. They also lost Subban and Oscar Dansk during that time too.
And they always seem to manage to compensate whenever William Carrier self-destructs and goes on Injured Reserve. Carrier’s style of play lends himself to getting hurt but to ask him to adjust and play it safe would make him ineffective. He was superb Saturday in the 6-2 win over Calgary, registering a goal and an assist in what was the first multi-point game of his career. He has to play the way he does so you live with the consequences.
You could look at Schmidt’s 20 games missed due to suspension last year as an injury because it forced others to fill the gaps, something the defense didn’t do a particularly good job of. The team struggled without him. And with Schmidt out for who knows how long, once again, the defense is under the microscope.
The hope was the youngsters — Nic Hague, Jimmy Schuldt, perhaps Dylan Coghlan or Jake Bischoff would step up and play well enough to solidify things. So far, that hasn’t manifested itself. Coghlan started the season in the minors, Schuldt joined him Friday, Bischoff got recalled from the Wolves, Hague has not distinguished himself and who knows how long Gerard Gallant sticks with him?
There was some good news from the infirmary. Eakin returned to the lineup Saturday against the Flames and the Knights will welcome his ability in the faceoff circle to win draws, to kill penalties and, most important, spearhead a tenacious forecheck and create turnovers.
If there was a common thread in the losses to Boston and Arizona, it was the lack of a strong forecheck game by the Knights’ forwards. When the forecheck is working, the game becomes vastly different. Opposing teams can’t transition as easily from defense to offense. Scoring opportunities suddenly emerge. The ice gets tilted in Vegas’ favor.
Eakin helps provide that with his tenacity.