It doesn’t appear people following the NHL are all that worried about the Vegas Golden Knights. It’s definitely possible they bounce back in the second half, but no one seems to have noticed that they’ve been a completely mediocre team since their hot start. Things are about to get a little more difficult for them, because their star player is likely to miss a fair amount of time.
Since everyone has been asking me when he’s coming back, I did some digging and got some good news on Nikolai Kovalenko’s injury and expected return date. I also learned that Igor Larionov likes to talk…a lot.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche mounted another comeback victory, and did it with a new goaltender in net.
All that and more in this Wednesday edition of Evan’s Daily.
Colorado Hockey Now
In a fantastic interview on 32 Thoughts, Nathan MacKinnon opened up about a lot of topics, and we learned he really loves his dog.
Looking back at the Montreal loss, where Jared Bednar didn’t like some of the goals Alexandar Georgiev gave up.
Down 4-2, a brutal Senators team let the Avalanche come back for the second time this season, and Colorado was led by some of their recent NCAA signings.
Later today, look for a scouting report on Avalanche first round pick Calum Ritchie, who has been tearing up the OHL. I spoke to the Director of Scouting with McKeens Hockey, Brock Otten, who gave me the rundown on what Ritchie is doing differently this year.
You can get a subscription to CHN+ for $29.99 a year with the code “evan10” and get access to the + content on every site in the network. In addition to the + content, everything will be ad-free, which is the biggest perk.
Kovalenko Injury Update
Where else would you expect to get an update on Nikolai Kovalenko? Well, you could go sleuthing through Russian media for news if you wanted to, but you all know I can do that for you. I thought Bednar goes long on some of his press conferences, but Igor Larionov talked for 30 minutes after Torpedo’s game yesterday. Yes, 30.
A week ago, Larionov had indicated that they were expecting Kovalenko back that game. Kovalenko, however, did not play. After the game, Larionov was asked about it, and did go into good detail.
Larionov said that he skated alone with Kovalenko two days ago and that he looked very good to him, but even though he is functionally fine, he still has occasional pain. They decided to sit him out and see if they can give him a few more days to recover. He will train with the team today and see where he’s at, but they aren’t interested in forcing him back until he’s ready. Essentially, he’ll be a game-time decision for their next game, but doesn’t sound like he’ll miss much more time.
“This is an important player for our team. We are really looking forward to him, we miss him, but we won’t force him,” Larionov said.
The KHL regular season finishes at the end of February, so plenty of time for him to get healthy.
For what it’s worth, Nikolai’s father and former Avalanche forward Andrei has finally said something I haven’t heard him say before – his son is NHL ready.
“In the NHL, he needs to show his best hockey, which he shows here. He has everything he needs, he has grown in the last two years as an athlete and player. In terms of the game and its vision, he grew up, became stronger and more powerful. To date, he is such a young powerful man who cannot be beaten.”
He continued a little more with how his son plays.
“He has his own style, he took something from me, like, for example, fighting in the corners. He fought since childhood, gnawed the puck, also continues to play in big hockey, – said the interlocutor of the agency. – Somewhere he has more tools – he can give better passes. The coach always told me that if you were given a puck from half the zone, you don’t have to look anywhere, but just throw it. I used my strong throw, he’s not so strong, so he plays more cunningly. Well, he acts at the expense of his stubbornness, he can also apply a power technique, most of the struggle behind the gate and in the corners he wins according to statistics,” said Andrei Kovalenko.
Around The NHL
The Vegas Golden Knights are 4-6 in their last 10 games, and they’ve played around .500 hockey since their hot start. Actually, they kind of fell off after dominating the Avalanche at home.
Things are about to get a little tougher for them, as Jack Eichel is now week-to-week with a lower body injury.
UPDATE: Jack Eichel had successful lower-body surgery and will be out week-to-week. #VegasBorn
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 16, 2024
Not quite sure what the injury is, but Eichel is their leading scorer, and you never want to lose your star. Week-to-week is also an iffy designation with no real timeline to it. I highly doubt Vegas misses the playoffs, but catching Vancouver may be tough, setting up a more difficult first round matchup.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs blew another lead, and Craig Button went off on them again. I’m always entertained by these.
— JayOnSC (@JayOnSC) January 17, 2024
National Hockey Now
The Detroit Red Wings are going to be without Patrick Kane due to a mystery injury. I guess the good news is that it’s not a hip injury.
Nashville may be a first round matchup for the Avalanche, but the Predators still have three crucial questions to answer.
I don’t quite get what the Blackhawks are doing. I get that you need to actually field a team, but they’re re-signing all these guys who could get them a decent return at the NHL trade deadline. How else are you supposed to rebuild your team?