Updated April 9, 2021 - 7:00 pm
Zach Whitecloud was cleared to resume skating with the Golden Knights on Friday.
The defenseman participated in morning skate at City National Arena but was a scratch for the game against the Arizona Coyotes.
Coach Pete DeBoer said Whitecloud may return for the finale of the two-game series on Sunday before the Knights embark on a four-game Southern California road trip.
“He’s very close,” DeBoer said. “He was out there today with us for the first time back integrated with the group. That’s the next step. I would say depending on how he reacts to everything he’s doing, he could be an option for Sunday.”
Whitecloud did not travel with the team for its two-game series at St. Louis and missed the past five games with an upper-body injury after appearing in every game up to that point.
He was hurt in the third period against Los Angeles on March 31 after getting hauled down by Kings defenseman Matt Roy. Whitecloud got up from the pile with blood coming from his face and went straight to the locker room.
The Knights have rarely had their full complement of defensemen available, with Alex Pietrangelo and Brayden McNabb missing significant time because of injury. Shea Theodore also was out for a brief spell. Alec Martinez returned against Arizona on Friday after missing Wednesday’s loss at St. Louis.
Whitecloud has two goals and eight points in 34 games and is one of the top penalty killers while averaging 18:31 of ice time.
Goose is loose
An interesting option to address the Knights’ scoring woes became available Friday when New Jersey placed winger Nikita Gusev on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract.
Once Gusev clears Saturday, he will be a free agent and can sign with any team at a reduced cost. He must be on a team’s roster before the trade deadline Monday to be eligible for the playoffs.
It’s not clear how much interest the Knights have in reuniting with Gusev almost two years after trading him to the Devils for a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick.
Gusev has two goals and five points in 20 games with the Devils this season and hasn’t played since March 20. He cleared waivers April 2.
He’s not far removed from posting 13 goals and 44 points in 66 games as a rookie last season.
Coyotes winger Phil Kessel played in his 885th consecutive game, passing Steve Larmer for the fifth-longest consecutive games played streak in NHL history.