Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 | 2 a.m.
William Karlsson stepped onto the ice serenaded by stick taps from his teammates, and rousing ovations from the fans.
It’s safe to say the Golden Knights missed their star center.
“Seemed excited to have me back,” Karlsson said. “Good feeling.”
The Golden Knights returned to practice Sunday following their bye week and the All-Star break. Joining them was Karlsson, who missed nearly all of January with a lower-body injury.
Karlsson last played in the Winter Classic in Seattle on Jan. 1.
The Golden Knights went 2-5-0 in the seven games prior to Karlsson getting hurt, then lost three of the next five that followed. But they closed the first half strong with a 6-2-1 run in their final nine games before the break.
“(The) boys really stepped up,” Karlsson said. “Played really well and got us the points we need to take us forward.”
All signs point to Karlsson making his return for Tuesday’s showdown against the visiting Edmonton Oilers, who will enter on a league-best 16-game winning streak (7 p.m.; HULU, ESPN+).
Coach Bruce Cassidy did not commit to Karlsson playing, but added that him being a full-contact participant at practice was a great sign.
“He’s trending well,” Cassidy said. “I’ll let you know Tuesday whether he’s cleared for Tuesday, but good to see him out there.”
Karlsson has long been one of the Golden Knights’ durable players. He’s made it through four of seven seasons in Vegas without missing a game.
The injury derailed what was on pace to be Karlsson’s best season since the 43-goal campaign in the Golden Knights’ inaugural season. His 32 points in 38 games were near the top of the team’s leaderboard with his 15 goals already surpassing last season’s total of 14.
Fortunately for the Golden Knights, they found the scoring touch in Karlsson’s absence with 27 goals in their last nine games. Karlsson’s former linemate Jonathan Marchessault was responsible for nearly one-third of them (eight).
The week off was going to benefit the Golden Knights from a health perspective.
Tobias Bjornfot, the defenseman Vegas claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 4, also returned to practice in a non-contact role after playing two games with his new team. He missed the last three weeks with a lower-body injury.
As for the other injured players — Jack Eichel (lower body), defensemen Shea Theodore and Ben Hutton (upper body), and forward William Carrier (undisclosed) — have started skating on their own, but Cassidy did not have a timeframe on when they return.
Pavel Dorofeyev is set to skate at practice today, but will not play Tuesday after getting elbowed in the face by New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba on Jan. 26.
The Golden Knights received a major boost with goalie Adin Hill returning Jan. 23 after a lower-body injury kept him out for almost two months.
Karlsson’s arrival comes just in time, given Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl will be opposite him Tuesday.
“Might as well throw me into the fire, or the wolves,” Karlsson said. “Just right at it. I better be on my toes.”