Max Pacioretty said he’s ready to play for the top-seeded Vegas Golden Knights against the eighth-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).
“I’m just working my hardest to make sure I’m up to speed when I do return,” said the forward, who had an undisclosed injury that kept him out of practice since July 20.
As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, teams are not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.
“As a group, everyone felt like I was giving myself the best opportunity by doing some of the rehab in Las Vegas, and that went really well,” Pacioretty said. “When I came here, I had to quarantine a bit, I tried to do as much as I could in my room to maintain my fitness levels. I did as good of a job as I could with that, but nothing can simulate a playoff game.”
The Golden Knights went 3-0-0 in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to earn the No. 1 seed and play the Blackhawks at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the West hub city.
Pacioretty led the Golden Knights with 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) in 71 games this season. He also led Vegas with 19 power-play points and eight power-play goals.
“We were watching some clips today how he’s effective on the half-wall, he’s able to shoot well,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. “I know from playing with him at the Olympics and World Cup, he has an amazing shot and against guys like that, you probably want to limit their space as much as you can and try not to let him get that shot off. But he’s pretty deadly when he has time and space.”
Pacioretty watched all three of Vegas’ games in the round-robin.
“It definitely stands out that we did our work during the break,” he said. “The team looks in shape, looks sharp. I was in training camp with them, but it shows once the games started. This team had their legs the entire game. That little advantage, it starts to fade a bit because everyone’s getting in shape now. But it’s nice to have that confidence some guys were able to build.”
Pacioretty was third among Golden Knights forwards with an average of 17:55 of ice time, behind Mark Stone (19:25) and William Karlsson (18:52).
“I think Max’s workload will be identical to what it was. That won’t change in any way, shape or form,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “He’s completely ready to go. We’re not worried about that at all.”
McCrimmon said Pacioretty flew to Edmonton on a charter Aug. 3 and quarantined in his hotel room for a few days. Pacioretty, who said he had weights and a stationary bike in his room, joined the Golden Knights on Aug. 7 and has practiced with them four straight days.
“We have guys up and down the lineup who can score, up and down the lineup who can defend well, penalty kill, (play on the) power play,” Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “You add a guy like Max back into our lineup, it’s going to have a ripple effect to our team to have that many more guys with speed and skill up and down our lineup.”