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Eichel expected to return for Golden Knights against Penguins

Forward has missed 11 straight games with lower-body injury

by Paul Delos Santos / Independent Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- Jack Eichel is expected to return for the Vegas Golden Knights against the Pittsburgh Penguins at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday (10 p.m. ET; ATTSN-RM, ATTSN-PT, ESPN+, SN NOW).

The forward, who was a full participant at practice Wednesday, took line rushes and was on the top power-play unit at the morning skate Thursday. He has missed 13 games, including the past 11, with a lower-body injury he sustained in the third period of a 4-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 3.

"It felt like I was out for a minute," Eichel said Wednesday. "But I thought it went pretty well."

Eichel was joined at practice by Paul Cotter, who's missed eight games with an undisclosed injury.

"I honestly just try to get him the puck at all times," Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith said Thursday. "He does such a good job getting up and down the ice, protects the puck well. For me, put the puck in his hands and try to find open space."

Eichel is third on the Golden Knights with 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 27 games. After missing two games following his injury against the Red Wings, Eichel returned and had one shot in 20:15 of ice time in a 2-1 overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 9, but he has missed the past 11 games since.

"Obviously, tried to go against Philly, couldn't do it," Eichel said. "It took a minute to figure out what was going on. We've had a good treatment plan since the beginning of December. You just got to be patient. It's something that doesn't get better overnight, so there have been days when you feel really good, some days where you don't feel as good as you did, but it's just part of the process. Just working to get out there and help the team win."

Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said of Eichel, "I think he's a little bit underappreciated how well he uses his size at both ends of the ice. When you have size and speed like he does and then skill on top of it and hockey sense, it adds up."

Jonathan Marchessault, who hasn't played since Dec. 21 because of a lower-body injury, is unlikely to play against the Penguins after skating in a blue noncontact jersey on Wednesday.

"He's still in a different color jersey. We'll target Saturday (against the Los Angeles Kings) for him," Cassidy said. "We'll see a little better after Friday's practice."

The Golden Knights (26-12-2), who are first in the Western Conference, are 4-1-1 in their past six games

"I've watched every game," Eichel said. "Obviously, we've been playing really well. It's a resilient group. Different guys are stepping up every night. Our penalty kill has been really good, our power play has been clicking. It's been awesome to see. It always stinks watching, but it's been a lot of fun watching guys find ways to get points every night."

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