Max Pacioretty has arrived in Edmonton and is expected to play for the Vegas Golden Knights against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this week.
The forward had an undisclosed injury that kept him out of practice since July 20. He didn’t travel with Vegas to Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, and missed three round-robin games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said Pacioretty completed his quarantine Sunday and will practice Monday.
“It gives us more depth. It adds our leading scorer back into our lineup,” DeBoer said. “He helps our power play, he helps in a lot of different areas.”
The Golden Knights won their three games in the round-robin portion of the Qualifiers to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks, who eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-5 series, are the No. 8 seed.
Pacioretty led Vegas with 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) in 71 games this season.
Vegas produced without Pacioretty, scoring 15 goals against the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. The 5.00 goals per game were best in the Qualifiers.
Pacioretty will return to his position at top-line left wing, skating with William Karlsson and Mark Stone. Chandler Stephenson, who filled in for Pacioretty, scored one goal in three games.
Stephenson skated at third-line left wing when training camp began July 14. Nick Cousins took that role after starting at fourth-line center at the start of camp.
“We’ll sort out the lines between tomorrow and game time,” DeBoer said.
The Golden Knights have not decided on a starting goalie for Game 1, which has not yet been scheduled. Goalies Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury are each expected to play, DeBoer said, due to the unusual circumstances of this postseason.
Fleury and Lehner alternated starts, beginning with the exhibition game against the Arizona Coyotes on July 30 and in the three round-robin games.
“We haven’t seen a playoff like this before. That opens a lot of different opportunities and things coaches can look at,” DeBoer said. “The reality is these four rounds are going to be condensed on the schedule compared to a normal playoff.
“Not only in net, but in all positions, the idea to rotate in fresh people is a huge advantage as you move through the playoff trail.”
Lehner, who was acquired in a trade with Chicago on Feb. 24, won his two round-robin starts against Dallas and Colorado with a 2.89 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. Fleury made 12 saves on 16 shots against St. Louis on Thursday and made 22 saves in the 4-1 exhibition victory against Arizona.
“Every game I get to play, I’ll do my best,” Lehner said Saturday after a 4-3 overtime win against the Avalanche. “Whenever they need me, they’ll need me. Marc is a world-class goaltender and has been one of the best in the League for a long time. I said it here when they traded for me at the deadline: I’m here whenever they need me.”