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Golden Knights center Paul Stastny to return Friday against Devils

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Vegas’ prized free agent acquisition is back and playing with the second line, and Max Pacioretty will miss it due to injury.

NHL: Preseason-Vegas Golden Knights at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights center Paul Stastny is set to return to the lineup Friday against the New Jersey Devils after missing the past two months with a lower-body injury, he confirmed per David Schoen of the Review-Journal.

Stastny sustained the injury in Vegas’ third game of the season, a 4-2 loss in Buffalo against the Sabres, in the final minutes. Stastny will center the second line, but it doesn’t appear to be the second line that’s expected. Coach Gerard Gallant said after morning skate that Stastny will center a line of Alex Tuch and Oscar Lindberg.

If that sounds like someone’s missing, that would be Max Pacioretty. Schoen confirmed via the team that 67 is dealing with a minor injury and will not play tonight. Pacioretty skated as an extra with the fourth line at morning skate, and Gallant initially spoke as if Pacioretty would be a healthy scratch.

“We’ve got to scratch somebody tonight and we’ll decide tonight,” Gallant said, per Schoen. “We’ll know before warmups.”

Your guess is as good as mine as to what changed there. Nonetheless, Pacioretty hasn’t scored a goal in his past five games — quite the cooldown from his eight goals from Nov. 18-29 — but has three assists in that span.

By the same account, it looks to be another good opportunity for Lindberg. He has made the most of his playing time since filling in for an injured Pacioretty on Dec. 4 against Washington, tallying a point per game (one goal, four assists). His two-assist night in the Stanley Cup Final rematch earned him some time on the third line. Lindberg has brought some energy into that once-dormant trio. Not a bad idea to roll with the hot hand, and a deserving one.

That means Cody Eakin, after a torrid run of 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 18 games as the second-line center, will drop down to the third line with Tomas Nosek and Ryan Carpenter.

The Golden Knights signed Stastny to a three-year deal worth $19.5 million ($6.5 million AAV) on July 1 to center Vegas’ second line after losing David Perron and James Neal to free agency. Stastny has yet to score a point with Vegas.