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Max Pacioretty a game-time decision against Avalanche

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Vegas’ leading scorer traveled for the two-game set in Denver.

San Jose Sharks v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty is a game-time decision Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver, coach Pete DeBoer said.

Pacioretty, who leads the Golden Knights with 16 goals, missed the past two games with a lower-body injury. The contusion occurred in the third period at the Los Angeles Kings on Friday when Pacioretty blocked a shot with his leg.

“He’s going to skate this morning, and then we’ll do some evaluating,” DeBoer said.

The Golden Knights fortunately didn’t need Pacioretty’s offense on Monday, a 5-1 home win against St. Louis. Vegas scored four times in the third for their sixth win in its past seven games.

But the Golden Knights are going from a banged-up St. Louis team to a well-oiled Colorado machine that’s flexing its muscle at the right time. The Avalanche enter Thursday’s tilt with Vegas winners of seven of their past eight, and tied with the Golden Knights at 43 points atop the West Division.

Vegas has a game in hand.

“It’s a playoff-like game tonight,” said forward Jonathan Marchessault. “If we want to win it all, we’re going to have to go through each other.”

Per usual with slowing down Colorado, it involves neutralizing the top line. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen are on seven-game point streaks (13 points each), while captain Gabriel Landeskog is on a six-game run, as well.

“Both teams are fairly healthy, healthier than the last time they played each other,” DeBoer said. “You look at the standings, you look at the importance of the points, this is a good gauge for both teams on where we’re at.”

Alex Tuch has replaced Pacioretty at top-line left wing the past two games, with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone. The last time that line played in Denver was by way of extreme lineup shuffling, but Tuch scored twice in a 3-0 win on Feb. 22. That jumpstarted a season-long six-game winning streak for Vegas.

Should Pacioretty return to the lineup, he carries a personal five-game point streak (four goals, five assists) dating back to March 12. His 17 points in March only trail captain Mark Stone’s league-best 21 points this month.

“We played a good road game that game,” Marchessault said. “We came here, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. They’re an amazing team. Their lineup is unbelievable, and it’s going to be a good challenge.”

Golden Knights projected lineup

Max Pacioretty — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith

Alex Tuch — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar

William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves

Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore

Brayden McNabb — Nick Holden

Nicolas Hague — Zach Whitecloud

Marc-Andre Fleury

Robin Lehner