Max Pacioretty arrives in Edmonton, expected to play in Game 1 against Blackhawks

Totally expected, but Vegas will have a full lineup when the playoffs begin.

The Vegas Golden Knights will have Max Pacioretty available for Game 1 of their first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, coach Peter DeBoer said Sunday.

Pacioretty, who led the Golden Knights with 32 goals and 66 points during the regular season, had not practiced with Vegas since July 20. He did not travel with the Knights to Edmonton when the league returned to play to complete the 2019-20 season.

It’s all but expected that Pacioretty will return to his spot at left wing on the top line with William Karlsson and Mark Stone. Chandler Stephenson will bump down to his bottom six role he had at training camp, but where that is is to be determined. Nick Cousins was on the fourth line at the start of camp.

“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 were fortunate to not need Pacioretty during their sweep of the round robin games. Vegas scored 15 goals in three games to clinch the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Vegas will play the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. The time and date at time of publishing has not been announced.

Pacioretty was on pace for a career season in his second with Vegas. Since being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in September 2018, Pacioretty has reverted back to prime form of being an annual 30-goal scorer. His 32 goals were the highest since 2016-17, and his 66 points was one shy of a career-high. He played all 71 regular season games before the league paused March 12, but was set to be week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

After an injury-plagued 2019 regular season, Pacioretty broke out with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in the seven-game first round series against the San Jose Sharks. Stone, his line mate, had 12 points (six goals, six assists).

The two will skate again, this time with Karlsson centering rather than Paul Stastny, and those three will be relied upon to lead an offense that is deep enough to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Pacioretty had not practiced with Vegas since July 20, the second week of Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan.