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November 21, 2018

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Tomas Hyka making the most of early call-up to the Golden Knights

Offensive threat could emerge next to Max Pacioretty, Erik Haula

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Isaac Brekken / AP

Golden Knights right wing Tomas Hyka reacts after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, in Las Vegas.

Vegas Golden Knights Coach Gerard Gallant needed only three words to sum up his expectations for Tomas Hyka when the team recalled the second-year wing from the Chicago Wolves last week.

“Some good offense,” he said.

So far, Hyka has delivered on the edict. Although the 25-year-old from Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, is yet to score, he had a pair of chances in each of his first two games, against the Penguins last Thursday and the Flyers on Saturday.

In the process, he’s helped add depth and provided a punch where the Golden Knights were sorely lacking through three games.

Hyka will look to keep attacking and attempt to spark an offense that’s been sparse on results when Vegas (2-4-0) hosts the Buffalo Sabres (3-2-0) at 7 p.m. today at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights haven’t scored more than two goals in any game yet this season.

“You just have to believe that if you’re in the right spots, you’re going to score,” Hyka said. “We have such a good team and we have such good players, so I’m not worried that we’re going to score more than two goals in this game.”

Hyka never lacks for confidence. A standout during last year’s training camp, he threatened to be a surprise addition on the inaugural roster before getting assigned to the Wolves in the American Hockey League.

He admitted to some nerves after the Golden Knights called him up late in the season, but that didn’t stop him from scoring a goal in his third NHL game. Hyka added a couple more points over the next few weeks before a couple of Vegas’ regulars came off the injured-reserve list to prompt him getting sent back down.

There was neither anxiety nor celebration when he received news that he would join the NHL club early this season.

Hyka found out last Wednesday and immediately flew into Pittsburgh while his teammates were playing in Washington. He checked into the hotel, grabbed dinner and watched the game in an attempt to mentally prepare himself.

“I was just trying to relax as much as I could to do the best I can next game,” Hyka said.

In the first period against the Penguins, Hyka made an aggressive move past a defender in front of the net that forced Casey DeSmith to make a tough save. It was exactly the type of approach Gallant preaches.

Hyka was arguably even better in Saturday’s win over the Flyers. In the high-leverage third period, he roped a pass to Erik Haula that nearly turned into a power-play goal and previously got behind the defense himself before being unable to corral a bouncing puck.

“I thought he played two real good games for us the last couple,” Gallant said. “He gets the opportunity to play with some real offensive guys, and hopefully he’ll put the puck in the back of the net.”

Hyka has an above-average Corsi for rate of 52 percent — a measure of a team’s total shot attempts with an individual player on the ice — through two games. He spoke of chemistry with third-liners Cody Eakin and Ryan Carpenter, but Gallant bumped him to the second line with Haula and Max Pacioretty late against the Flyers.

He also skated with the second line at Monday’s practice, though Pacioretty didn’t practice as part of a rest day. A strong performance against Buffalo could solidify Hyka’s spot next to Pacioretty and Haula, especially considering prized offseason acquisition Paul Stastny is out up to two months with injury.

“It doesn’t really matter to me where I play,” Hyka said. “I like to play with everyone, everywhere. All the guys here are good players.”

Hyka was thrilled to get back to Vegas after only a brief stop in Chicago. He may not have started the season in the NHL, but he also may not be leaving for a while.

“When you get a chance here, you have to take advantage of that obviously,” he said. “I’m trying to do the best and obviously still have things to work on, but I’m enjoying every single moment here.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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