Every team goes through it at some point during the year. Maybe even multiple times. The injury bug comes for a visit. Hopefully, this locker room pest is exterminated quickly and doesn’t take up residence. This year the Vegas Golden Knights have seen it occasionally but it only seemed to bite one or two players at a time. Heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, there’s more concern over injuries than at almost any other point this season.
First and foremost is Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty missed the final six games of the regular season with what is still an undisclosed upper body injury. The first of many players to be termed a game-time decision heading into Sunday’s Game One with the Minnesota Wild, he is one of the most important. Pacioretty led the team not only in goals but overtime game-winners as well, something that you can never have too much of come playoff time. He did not practice ahead of Game One and is likely out. Vegas has to hope other players pick up the scoring load he shouldered much of the season.
Then there’s the player I think is really the most important cog in the machine defensively, Alec Martinez. Martinez leads the NHL in blocked shots with 168 this season and even added 32 points. Considering how intelligent a player he is and how well he reads the ice in almost any situation, the loss is not just in the physical player. Having a guy on the ice or on the bench who can help coach up other players is invaluable. This is a loss you feel all the way around when he’s not out there. Martinez did not practice ahead of Game One and is also likely out, although still being called a game-time decision.
There is some better news when it comes to other players for the Vegas Golden Knights. Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek and Alex Tuch all practiced fully on Saturday after missing stretches of time. Tuch appeared to be banged up Wednesday and was held out of the third period of that game but appears to be good to go.
It will also be nice to welcome the physical presence of Ryan Reaves back to the lineup. Say what you will about his game, but teams treat the Golden Knights differently when he’s dressed. I’m old school and think that a player like Reaves is always one you want on your roster, especially come playoff time.
Finally, Nosek also looks like he’s going to be back in the lineup as he skated in Pacioretty’s spot on the wing in practice Saturday. Nosek has been a real Swiss Army knife for the VGK (as have a few other players) and will get his chance to really show out in his return today.