**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.**
Everyone was hoping the news on Erik Haula’s injury suffered last week in Toronto would be good. Or, at the least, optimistic.
But it appears the Golden Knights are going to be without their second-line center for the foreseeable future. We may hear something prior to tonight’s game with Anaheim as to exactly what the prognosis is going forward.
Whether the Knights call up someone from the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, make a trade or stand pat, it doesn’t impact Cody Eakin. He has been moved up from the third line to Haula’s spot and he even found himself on the first line Sunday in Boston, skating with Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch.
Gerard Gallant said afterward it was basically a one-off, that he was trying to get his team going. So expect to see Eakin centering for Tuch and Max Pacioretty against the Ducks as the Knights look to turn things around on this short two-game homestand at T-Mobile Arena.
There haven’t been many bright spots through the first 18 games for Vegas. Tuch and Marchessault have been the team’s top two players. But after that, you can make a case for Eakin as the next best performer.
In 15 games, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with five goals and three assists. He’s been an important part of the team’s penalty killing unit. He’s winning 48 percent of his face-offs and he’s averaging 14:21 in time on ice. His shooting percentage is 29.4 percent though he has only taken 17 shots.
He has also been doing this while playing with numerous linemates. With injuries and slumps, Gallant has had to move things around. But Eakin has performed with whoever Gallant has flanked him with.
He appears to be stronger on his skates. His forechecking has been more effective. He’s not turning the puck over as much. And playing with Tuch seems to have helped perk up his offensive stats.
I always found Eakin to be somewhat underappreciated. He’s a quiet guy who doesn’t draw a lot of attention to himself. He works hard, tries to make every shift a good one and seems to be a good teammate.
Yet, I remember reading and hearing talk during training camp that Eakin was expendable, that maybe he doesn’t make the opening night roster, that he’s not that good a player.
I’m not hearing that now.
Look, I’m not nominating Eakin for the Hockey Hall of Fame. What I’m saying is you should appreciate his contributions, especially during a trying time for the franchise, one that remains fraught with uncertainty as Haula joins Paul Stastny on injured reserve.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**
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