The Golden Knights had two key pieces back in the lineup Wednesday in Nashville.
Left wing Max Pacioretty was activated from injured reserve and played for the first time since Oct. 14 when the Knights faced the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Forward William Carrier also returned to the lineup after being removed from the NHL’s COVID protocol.
Pacioretty has been sidelined the past 17 games by a lower-body fracture he sustained in the second game of the season against the Los Angeles Kings. He was projected to be sidelined for six weeks with the injury. Wednesday is a day shy of that mark.
Pacioretty participated in the Knights’ morning skates prior to the past two games, hinting at his return. He was reunited on the top line with center Chandler Stephenson and winger Mark Stone.
“When he comes back, it’s going to be huge for us,” forward Nicolas Roy said following the morning skate Wednesday. “He’s obviously one of our best players. He’s contributing a lot, going to help a lot on the power play as well when he’s back. It’s really nice to see him skate with us. A really great leader as well, so looking forward to having him back in the lineup.”
Pacioretty, who turned 33 on Saturday, led the Knights with 24 goals last season and has a team-best 58 goals in 121 games over the past three seasons.
In the season-opening victory against Seattle, he had two goals and an assist.
The Knights are inching closer to full strength, with winger Mark Stone and defenseman Zach Whitecloud returning from extended absences on the last homestand.
Carrier, out since Nov. 11, has two goals and two assists in 11 games this season. He missed the first two games of the year while in concussion protocol after being kicked in the head by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Kurtis MacDermid during a preseason game.
Forward William Karlsson (broken foot) is about two weeks away based on his initial six-week prognosis.
Despite the rash of injuries, the Knights entered Wednesday with wins in 10 of their past 14 games following a 1-4 start to keep within hailing distance of first-place Calgary in the Pacific Division.
“I think we’re through the main part of it, some guys on the tail end of coming back and rejoining the group,” Whitecloud said. “They’re all going to bring a huge boost when they come back.”
Defenseman Alec Martinez (facial laceration) and Nolan Patrick (upper body) remain on injured reserve and did not travel with the Knights for the two-game road trip, according to DeBoer.
“I don’t have an update beyond that other than if they were close, they would be here,” coach Pete DeBoer said.