Max Pacioretty has officially entered The Bubble for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Absent from team activities since July 20, Pacioretty missed an exhibition game and all three round-robin contests as the Vegas Golden Knights clinched the No.1 seed to set up a Round 1 matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, the veteran has now arrived in Edmonton and, per Head Coach Peter DeBoer, will be available for Game 1 against the Hawks on Tuesday.
That is a huge boost for the Golden Knights who will get back their leader in points (66), goals (32), power play goals (8) and power play points (19) during the regular season.
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It is also bad news for the rest of the NHL given that Vegas hardly missed a beat despite Pacioretty’s absence, going a perfect 3-0-0 in the round-robin games and laying a combined total of 15 goals on their opponents in the process.
They looked like a team rapidly approaching the peak of their powers and with Pacioretty now back in the equation, the Golden Knights are primed to make a real deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Watch out Blackhawks.
Pacioretty’s return also adds more depth to the Knights roster given that Chandler Stephenson can move back down to a third-line role, with Nick Cousins adding a different dimension to that bottom-line alongside Ryan Reaves and William Carrier.
But getting a player back of Pacioretty’s ilk is a huge boost for any team, but especially for one who has serious Stanley Cup aspirations as the Golden Knights do.
He played arguably the best hockey of his long and distinguished career in 2019-20, and would have carved out a career-year were it not for COVID-19 bringing the sporting world to a shuddering halt.
Pacioretty recorded 32 goals and 34 assists for 66 points in 71 games, while he was a real weapon on the power play with eight goals and 19 points.
He brings a wealth of experience to the locker room too and he showed what he’s capable of in the Playoffs after posting 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games against the San Jose Sharks last year.
Now, having been cleared fit to play after recovering from a lower-body injury, Pacioretty will train before being slotted back into the lineup for Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks with the Stanley Cup Playoffs slated to start on Tuesday.
This is a huge mental boost for the Golden Knights ahead of Game 1 and they will hope that it doesn’t take Max Pacioretty long to get back to the peak of his powers.