Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty did not travel with the team to Edmonton as he continues to recover from a minor injury sustained during training camp.
Pacioretty missed all last week of camp with what coach Pete DeBoer described as a “minor issue.” The plan was for Pacioretty to return to practice prior to Vegas leaving for Edmonton, but the Golden Knights’ leading scorer is expected to join the team in the Western Conference hub city.
“Max had a minor injury in training camp that we told you guys about. I expected that he’d be back by the end of camp, but he wasn’t,” DeBoer said Monday. “He’s not with us and he’ll join us as soon as he’s healthy and able to participate.”
DeBoer listed Pacioretty as “unfit to participate” as early as last Monday. Teams are not permitted to disclose any injury or illness statuses during the league’s return to play plan, so it’s unclear whether this injury has any correlation to Pacioretty’s lower-body injury he sustained prior to the league’s pause on March 12.
Right now, at this current time, Pacioretty not being available is a concern. The Golden Knights’ top goal scorer and point scorer is likely missing Thursday’s exhibition game against the Arizona Coyotes, and if nothing materializes between now and the weekend, the first round robin game Aug. 3 against the Dallas Stars.
While these games won’t hold as much merit as a best-of-5 series during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, if the Golden Knights want to aspire to be the top seed in the Western Conference, they will need a healthy Pacioretty on the top line with William Karlsson and Mark Stone.
Nick Cousins had taken Pacioretty’s place on the top line during training camp 2.0 last week, while Tomas Nosek went from possible healthy scratch to his usual fourth-line center post inbetween William Carrier and Ryan Reaves.
“We’re approaching these round robin games as really important games,” DeBoer said. “You want the easiest path possible. We have a chance of getting the first seed in the West, which is huge.”
DeBoer said he plans to go with 20 skaters Thursday, and if Pacioretty isn’t available, Cousins is likely to skate on the top line. No starting goaltender was announced either, but DeBoer plans on giving two starts each over the next four games to Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Vegas has enough depth to carry the load without Pacioretty, but the Golden Knights’ hopes at winning the Stanley Cup hinder on having the veteran healthy. All is well if he only misses one game, though.