Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty day-to-day with lower-body injury

Vegas avoids a major scare to its top goal scorer.

Max Pacioretty will miss at least the Vegas Golden Knights’ game Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings due to a lower-body injury suffered in last night’s 5-0 win against the Jets, Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant announced Friday.

Pacioretty left the game in the first period and did not return.

With what seemed like a potential major blow to the lineup, this is the best-case scenario for the Golden Knights. Pacioretty has 22 goals and 39 points in 61 games, with 15 of those points coming in the last 25 games.

Gallant said that Pacioretty’s injury was not deemed as serious as the team initially thought.

He’s also a key fixture on Vegas’ new-look second line, which has been dominant since its inception. In fact, Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Paul Stastny have combined for 27 points in 11 games. The trio, which demonstrated incredible chemistry from the get-go, gave the Knights two great two-way lines, which in turn strengthened the bottom six.

Though Vegas has replacement options, Pacioretty’s absence creates a big hole that will be difficult to fill, especially at such a critical juncture in the season.

The Knights will turn to the “next man up” mantra and will have to fill the void by committee.

Alex Tuch is expected to take Pacioretty’s spot on the second line. He had the most time on the second line with Stastny before the Golden Knights acquired Stone at the trade deadline Feb. 25. Brandon Pirri will likely move to a spot on the third line as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and William Carrier are expected to return to the lineup Saturday.

The Knights are five points behind the Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division with eight games remaining.

Ironically, this is the second time this season that a Knights player has suffered a fluke knee injury. Erik Haula was stretchered off the ice in Toronto after taking an innocent-looking hit from Patrick Marleau; he has been out of the lineup since November and underwent knee surgery in December. Fortunately, this one isn’t as bad as the Golden Knights continue their playoff push.

Danny Webster contributed to this report.