Brett Howden may have had an opportunity to secure a spot in the Vegas Golden Knights preseason. But when a lower body injury sustained in Salt Lake City last month put him on the shelf for nearly three weeks, that chance went by the boards.
However, with Max Pacioretty out for six weeks and Mark Stone likely to miss some time as well, Howden gets a second chance to make a first impression. With coach Peter DeBoer forced shuffle his lines with his top two scorers out, Howden has an opportunity to play regular minutes and make a positive contribution to the 1-1 Golden Knights, who return from a early-season five-day hiatus Wednesday to host the St. Louis Blues at T-Mobile Arena.
Howden returned to practice Monday at City National Arena, skating with his teammates for the first time since Sept. 30. He was joined by Nicolas Roy, who was also hurt in that game against the Los Angeles Kings, and William Carrier, who had suffered a concussion after taking a skate to the head Oct. 5 at Colorado.
“It sucks that I missed a lot of training camp,” Howden said. “I thought with each game I was getting a bit better. But I’m feeling great and I’m looking to get back in the lineup and work hard to help the team any way I can.”
Howden, who was with the New York Rangers for his three years in the NHL after being taken late in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, was traded to the Golden Knights over the summer. He’s still trying to learn DeBoer’s system and find a comfort level out on the ice.
“Everyone’s talking to me, helping me out,” he said. “The system is different but in the end, it just comes down to playing and doing your job.”
While he was out, Howden got a chance to watch his new team from the press box and it helped him gain a bit of an education on how the Golden Knights play.
“You definitely get a different perspective,” he said. “I was able to learn and watch the PK and other things.”
Howden is planned to be one of DeBoer’s penalty killers along with Roy as he wanted to avoid using his top-six forwards all the time. Yet in the first two games, he had to play Stone along with Chandler Stephenson on the PK along with Reilly Smith and William Karlsson, who happen to be excellent penalty killers.
Like the rest of the team, Howden will be asked to pick up the offensive slack in the absence of Pacioretty and Stone, the team’s top two scorers from last year. In his three NHL seasons, Howden has 16 goals and 33 assists in 178 games. He’ll likely do it playing fourth-line minutes.
“Wherever I can help the team is fine,” he said. “I’ve already missed enough time.”