Thursday, January 26, 2023 | 12:06 p.m
As the Golden Knights get closer to a much-needed bye week and All-Star break, reinforcements are on the way.
Shea Theodore, who has not played since December 9 due to a knee injury, was a full-contact participant in practice today and the defenseman will be the decider for Friday’s game against New York Rangers (4pm, ATTSN -RM) , said coach Bruce Cassidy after practice at Madison Square Garden.
“I’m pretty close,” Theodore said. “I think it still depends on what the coaches and coaches say, but right now I’m feeling pretty good.”
Theodore returned to his rightful place in the second defense at Brayden McNabb’s right. Alec Martinez and Alex Pietrangelo remained the top pairing after reuniting three games ago.
But Theodore wasn’t the only member of the Vegas Blue Line to rejoin his teammates. Zach Whitecloud returned to training in a non-contact role after a lower body injury – two days after Theodore fell – left him out of action.
Whitecloud ran with his usual partner Nic Hague in the third pairing, but his return is still likely after the All-Star hiatus when the Golden Knights resume play in Nashville on Feb. 7.
Theodore’s presence is a welcome addition for a Vegas group that has been hit hard by injuries over the past month and a half. Before the injury, Theodore had 22 points in 29 games and has averaged a point per game (one goal, seven assists) in his last eight games.
“It’s been a long time and it felt like an eternity,” Theodore said. “It’s good to be back on the ice.”
The Golden Knights will also have their powerplay units almost back to health with Theodore. Ben Hutton was in Theodore’s place in the second power play session.
Theodore will bring back many elements that the Golden Knights missed from their non-Pietrangelo defenders, such as what he can offer in the offensive zone.
“He’s a great match for Nabber,” Cassidy said. “Nabber has had to play with a lot of younger lads in the last two months or so, so that can affect your game as well if you’re trying to cater to the young lads. So he can settle back in too, knowing that he has a guy on his right hand that he’s comfortable with.”
Cassidy confirmed William Carrier will return to the lineup on Friday after missing the last five games with an upper-body injury. Carrier, who already had a career-high 11 goals this season, ran on the third row with Chandler Stephenson and Phil Kessel.
Vegas captain Mark Stone was already expected to be out after the All-Star break, and Cassidy confirmed he wasn’t traveling with the team. Stone is struggling with a back injury unrelated to the injury that required surgery in May and the Golden Knights are hoping he will return when the Golden Knights play again in early February.
“Hopefully we’ll see on the other side of the break,” Cassidy said. “I was originally told that it was a good possibility. But until we get back to Vegas, that’s a tough question.”
Danny Webster can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Danny on Twitter at twitter.com/DannyWebster21.