Max Pacioretty returns to Golden Knights lineup

Vegas Golden Knights left wing Max Pacioretty, left, celebrates after center Paul Stastny, right, scored against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, March 29, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

When Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty went down with a lower-body injury during a 5-0 win over Winnipeg on March 21, there was concern his season could be over.

But he returned to the lineup Friday night against the Minnesota Wild at T-Mobile Arena after missing three games.

“I think all things considered, this was best-case scenario,” Pacioretty said Friday morning after participating in the morning skate. “I think there were a couple scenarios where it could have been (severe), and initially that’s what we thought it was, but it worked out.”

The Knights were relieved to have him back. After winning 10 of 11 games with Pacioretty’s line clicking, they went 0-3 during his absence.

“You never want to be away, especially this time of year, so it’s nice to get back out there with my teammates,” he said. “I’ve had my fair share of injuries this year, and it has seemed like it’s always been right when I was picking up momentum. That part of it is frustrating, but it was nice to only be out three games.”

Pacioretty rejoined the second line with Paul Stastny and Mark Stone. The Knights scored only six goals in losing three straight without him, failing to make up ground on struggling San Jose in a bid for home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff series.

“We’ve kind of known where we stand for a little bit,” Pacioretty said. “It’s not a reason to let your foot off the gas, but at the same time you want to make sure everybody is feeling good about their game at the right time of the year. We feel we have that. We’ve missed a couple guys, but hopefully when everyone comes back, we’re ready to rock.”

The Knights aren’t quite at full strength up front, as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare missed his fourth game in the past five. Ryan Carpenter played center on the fourth line in his place.

Favorable rating

Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault helped spur a rally in Wednesday’s 4-3 loss at Colorado when he fought Avalanche forward Sven Andrighetto midway through the second period with Vegas trailing 3-0.

Vegas’ Ryan Reaves, one of the NHL’s best brawlers, praised his teammate’s fighting skills.

“I have to give him a solid 8.5,” Reaves said. “He picked the guy up, caught him with two. I would have liked a more puffed-out chest and a little bigger (celebration), but he did good. I think it fired up our bench for sure. He was bringing it all night, and I think he was the best player on the ice for us last game.”

Fleury still day to day

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was at the team’s facility Friday morning, but didn’t skate and wasn’t in uniform for the game. Malcolm Subban made his seventh consecutive start.

Coach Gerard Gallant said it’s unlikely Fleury will play Saturday.

“I’m not concerned,” Gallant said. “I said day to day like 10 days ago, so let’s say it was one week and now it’s day to day again. After (Saturday), we’ll see.

“But it’s not a long-term thing.”

Fleury last played March 15. He has won his past six starts, allowing five goals on 183 shots.

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