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DETROIT -- The best first-year expansion team in NHL history, the Vegas Golden Knights, are finally struggling and the Detroit Red Wings welcome back a familiar face.
Vegas (42-19-5) visits the Detroit Red Wings (26-29-11) at 7:30 p.m., on Thursday at Little Caesars Arena.
The Golden Knights have lost four of their last five games and are without some of their key players due to injuries. The latest addition to the injury list is right winger Reilly Smith, who was injured late in the second period in the team's 4-1 road loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. After taking a hit, Smith -- who is tied for second on the squad's scoring list with 60 points -- left the ice holding his left side and did not return.
"I don't have an update for you," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said after Tuesday night's game. "Obviously, Reilly is one of our top players and he always plays a good game. I thought the team played well without him in the third period, but he's a big loss to that line for sure."
Smith joins defenseman Nate Schmidt (undisclosed), wingers James Neal (upper body), Oscar Lindberg (upper body) and Will Carrier (upper body), goaltender Malcolm Subban (upper body) and defenseman Luca Sbisa (undisclosed) on the injured list.
"We're missing guys, but that's no excuse for anything," said center Erik Haula. "... We have a deep team. We've been saying that all year. Now it's time to prove that."
But left winger Tomas Tatar is healthy.
He faces his former team, the Red Wings, for the first time since they dealt him to Vegas for three draft choices at the Feb. 26, trading deadline. Tatar, who has 17 goals and 29 points for the season, got his first goal as a Golden Knight -- which was the game winner -- in Vegas' 3-2 road win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
"It feels good to contribute and get the monkey off my back," said Tatar after the game. He has played four games with the Golden Knights.
Detroit will be without center Frans Nielsen, who left the Red Wings' 6-5 overtime road loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night late in the first period after suffering a concussion due to a high hit from Boston center David Backes.
"I assume he might be out for a little bit but I don't know that answer," Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said after the game.
It was announced on Wednesday that Backes has been suspended for three games by the NHL for the hit. He received a roughing penalty on the play.
To replace Nielsen on the roster, the Red Wings announced they will recall forward Evgeny Svechnikov from their American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids on Thursday. He is expected to be in the lineup against Vegas.
Svechnikov, 21, has seven goals and 22 points in 52 games with Grand Rapids this season. He appeared in two games with Detroit late last season and did not record a point. But he scored the winning goal in the shootout in a 5-4 win over the Ottawa Senators on April 3.
Updated March 8, 2018