LAS VEGAS -- Vegas Golden Knights forward James Neal could return from an injured hand to play in the season opener at the Dallas Stars on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, TVA Sports, FS-SW, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV).
"When I had surgery and went through the process of getting better, my goal was to always play the first game," said Neal, who was injured May 12 playing for the Nashville Predators against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. "I'm still working toward that. It's been nice to be able to practice the last few days with the team and get reps in, get the game legs back in a little bit."
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Vegas general manager George McPhee said Wednesday it's possible Neal could play Friday. Neal played with the injury through the Stanley Cup Final, which Nashville lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. He did not have surgery until late July and on Wednesday said he should've done so sooner.
"It was definitely a weird summer," Neal said. "Any time you switch teams (in the NHL Expansion Draft), you've got to figure out what's going on and where you're going. Luckily, I got to Vegas and settled quickly, so everything's been good."
Because Neal delayed his surgery, McPhee said the Golden Knights were able to backdate his placement on the injured/non-roster list.
"We can activate him at any time," McPhee said.
Neal was named one of six Golden Knights alternate captains Wednesday. Vegas, which has not named a captain, will have three alternate captains for home games and three for road games. Joining Neal are forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, David Perron and Reilly Smith, and defensemen Deryk Engelland and Jason Garrison.
"It's definitely an honor," Neal said. "We have a great group of guys here. All the guys that were named will put a great leadership group together, help the young guys and guide this team."