While Arizona Coyotes oft-injured defenseman Jakob Chychrun will be playing in his 30th game Sunday, the defenseman still isn’t 100 percent after offseason surgery on his right ACL. The 20-year-old is already in his third season in the NHL, but he hasn’t played more than 68 games in a season due to injuries. The most recent injury, he knows he’ll just have to play through, according to The Athletic’s Craig Morgan (subscription required).
“My knee can get a little sore still sometimes, which can be a little frustrating,” he said. “Last year, I didn’t really have that because last year was just a repair (left meniscus). This one they had to take another part of my body and make that into a new ACL. Taking that piece of patellar tendon, it can get really sore. It’s pretty up and down and it’s one thing I have been dealing with. It can feel great or it can feel terrible.”
Regardless, Chychrun has been making the most of his time as the defenseman has three goals and 10 points while averaging 20:12 in ATOI this season with 41 hits and 41 blocked shots. Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet has been impressed with Chychrun’s play despite his struggles with injury.
“He’s a 20-year-old kid that didn’t have a training camp and doesn’t have a ton of games under his belt and I’m playing him 20-plus minutes, playing him penalty kill, power play. We’re giving him a lot. My thing is to see how he reacts after bad games and they are fewer and farther between — you don’t get as many in a row and I think that’s a big step for him.”
- When you think of the Vegas Golden Knights’ best player, you think of names such as Marc-Andre Fleury, William Karlsson, Jon Marchessault or Alex Tuch. However, when The Athletic’s Jesse Granger (subscription required) went around the locker room and asked that question, he got a surprise answer — Reilly Smith. The forward has been out of the lineup with a leg injury since Jan. 6 and while there is talk that the Golden Knights missed defenseman Nate Schmidt desperately while he missed 20 games at the start of the season with a suspension, the players feel that Smith’s offense is missed even more. “It’s been big,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “I think he’s by far one of the most underrated players in the league. He’s a great two-way player who wins a lot of battles in the defensive zone. He’s a big guy on the penalty kill as well. When you look at that, and look behind his numbers, I think it’s been a huge loss for us.”
- Saturday’s matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning was played without star defenseman Erik Karlsson, who chose to sit out with a lower-body injury. Reports suggest that Karlsson might sit out the team’s final two games on Monday and Tuesday, to rest up until after the All-Star break. However, while that loss is significant to the team, fellow defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed his eighth game and The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz (subscription required) writes that the team may not be missing Vlasic much at all. The team has outscored their opponents 24-15 with Vlasic out. That along with his minus-13 rating might suggest that the team might be better off using a more offensive-minded defenseman in his stead like Tim Heed.