The Blackhawks’ quarterfinal series against the Golden Knights became tougher Sunday when Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said the team’s leading scorer Max Pacioretty is expected to play in Game 1.
Pacioretty had an undisclosed injury during training camp and has not practiced since July 19. He didn’t travel with Vegas to Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, on July 26 and missed three round-robin games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information. DeBoer said Pacioretty completed his quarantine Sunday and will practice Monday.
“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 won their three games in the round-robin portion of the Qualifiers to earn the No. 1 seed in the West. The Blackhawks, who eliminated the Oilers in a best-of-five series, are the No. 8 seed.
Without Pacioretty, Vegas scored 15 goals against the Stars, Blues and Avalanche.
Pacioretty led the Golden Knights with 32 goals and 66 points in 71 games during his second season with Vegas. He scored a goal in Vegas’ 5-1 home win against the Blackhawks on Dec. 10, and had 13 shots on goal during the three-game series.
Pacioretty is expected to play on the first line with center William Karlsson and right wing Mark Stone. Chandler Stephenson, who filled in for Pacioretty, scored one goal in three games. He skated at left wing on the third line during camp, and Nick Cousins took that role after starting at fourth-line center.
The quarterfinals series are scheduled to begin Tuesday, but it’s unknown whether or not the Blackhawks-Golden Knights series will start on that date.