Eakin missed the first four games with an undisclosed injury sustained in the preseason finale against the San Jose Sharks on Sept. 29.
“I’m excited to get back in the lineup,” Eakin said. “It’s been a long time. We’ll see how it feels in the morning, and hopefully it’ll be good.”
Eakin took his usual place as the third-line center at practice. That spot had been occupied by Paul Stastny in his absence. Top prospect Cody Glass has skated with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty on the second line. Stastny has been moved back up, while Glass skated as one of four forwards on the third line; along with Brandon Pirri and Valentin Zykov.
Based on line rushes Friday, Glass was skating as the fourth forward, indicating he could either be a healthy scratch for Saturday’s matchup against Calgary, or be reassigned to AHL Chicago. The Wolves would welcome the 20-year-old Glass as their top-line center.
But coach Gerard Gallant would not dismiss any chance that Glass could play the wing Saturday with Eakin at center.
“It’s a possibility,” Gallant said. [Glass] played a couple of exhibition games there. We haven’t thought that far yet, but it’s definitely a possibility.”
This was the second consecutive year Eakin missed time at the start of the season. The 28-year-old center, playing in the final year of a $3.85 million AAV contract, missed the first three games of the 2019 season with a lower-body injury.
“You want to come back, you want to get right back in it,” Eakin said. “You spend a lot of time working out, and you get tired of working out and you want to play hockey games. It’s tough, but it’s just the way it is.”
Eakin had an NHL career-high 22 goals (41 points) in 2019. Whether or not he can replicate that output remains to be seen, but it’ll be much welcomed for a Vegas bottom six that has struggled mightly out of the gates. Pirri and Zykov each have one assist, while Stastny did not register a point in the four games played as the third-line center. Tomas Nosek (three points) and William Carrier (one goal) have not scored outside of the game last Saturday at San Jose. Ryan Reaves has not scored a point in the new campaign.
The Golden Knights could use any jolt after losing back-to-back games against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday and Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. Vegas has been outscored 8-2 in the past 111:40 of game time.
“He can help us a lot,” Gallant said. “Good penalty killer, 20-goal scorer last season. Good, solid player. He’ll help us a lot.”
Eakin has not played a meaningful game since being ejected in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round last season against San Jose.
“These guys are ready to go,” Eakin said. “They’re hungry. I don’t think they liked the way they played the last couple or parts of each game. It’ll be fun stepping back in playing against a good opponent and getting back out there.”
Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Gallant confirmed Friday.
Vegas will recall a goaltender from AHL Chicago, whether it be Garret Sparks or Oscar Dansk, to back up Marc-Andre Fleury for the club’s upcoming back-to-back this weekend against the Flames and Los Angeles Kings (Sunday, 7 p.m. PT).
In his first start of the season, Subban was spectacular. He stopped 12 of the 14 shots he faced, but the last one he saw was a goal by Nick Schmaltz to give Arizona a 2-0 lead. Prior to that is where Subban likely got injured, as Schmaltz lands on his left leg after being checked by Jon Merrill.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s upset. His first game of the year, his first game in quite a while. When’s the last time he played, five, six months ago?” Gallant said. “He worked hard. He had a real good camp. Injuries are part of the game. He won’t be out a long time, but I’ll tell you something, I felt real good about his first period. He was outstanding, he battled hard. He kept the game close for us.”