OTTAWA -- Coming off their most explosive output of the season, the Ottawa Senators are about to get a boost of power.
Rookie winger Brady Tkachuk is expected to return a week ahead of schedule from a torn leg ligament when the Senators host the Vegas Golden Knights at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday.
It took the 19-year old little time to prove the Senators made a wise choice when they selected him fourth overall in the NHL entry last June. Tkachuk had three goals and three assists in four games -- the last of which he finished despite suffering the injury early in the night -- and provided Ottawa with an abrasive, physical force up front.
His presence has been missed the previous nine games.
"I feel like I'm game-ready," Tkachuk told reporters after skating on a line with Chris Tierney and Mikkel Boedker in Wednesday's practice. "I felt really good on the ice today.
"I want to be out there. I want to contribute. I want to play and help the team in any way I can. I've been anxious to get out there. Hopefully it's (Thursday). We'll see."
Craig Anderson, who has started all but two of Ottawa's 15 games, will get the call against Vegas. Anderson was pulled with five minutes left in Tuesday's 7-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils, but it was only to give him some rest.
The Senators (6-6-3) will be trying to finish a three-game homestand with some momentum against a team that is struggling to resemble its old self.
The Golden Knights (6-8-1) have won just once in four tries since defeating the Senators in overtime on Oct. 28. After 15 games in 2017-18, their first season of existence, the Golden Knights were 9-5-1 and headed to a startling 51-24-7 finish.
"This year, so far, it's like we're pushing a sled up the hill," coach Gerard Gallant told reporters after Wednesday's practice at Canadian Tire Centre, the day after a 3-1 loss in Toronto to the Maple Leafs. "Last year, everything was going perfect for us. We've just got to keep fighting and finding our way."
The Golden Knights' big guns are having trouble hitting their targets. Winger Jonathan Marchessault has six goals, but only one in his last seven games. Heading into Wednesday's action, he was tied for second in the league with 64 shots on goal.
Center William Karlsson, who had a big breakout last season with 43 goals, has just three to this point.
"They're working hard, they're trying hard, they're just not getting as many chances as they did last year," said Gallant. "Of course, they were one of the best lines in the league last year. They've just got to find it, get it back and keep working. You can't get frustrated, you've got to work through it. Hopefully, better days are ahead for them."
Practicing with the Golden Knights on Wednesday was defenseman Nate Schmidt, who is serving a 20-game suspension for violating the NHL/NHLPA's performance enhancing substances program. Schmidt is scheduled to return Nov. 18.