Max Pacioretty hasn’t been seen in a game for the Vegas Golden Knights since May 1 against the Arizona Coyotes, when he went down with what has been termed an upper-body injury during the game.
Pacioretty would miss the last six regular-season games, and despite being called things like “day-to-day” and a “game-time decision” hasn’t appeared in the playoffs either. He did not make the trip to Minnesota for Game Six against the Wild. But after yesterday’s morning skate, Vegas Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer did offer a little glimpse into the situation.
When asked if Max Pacioretty was skating on his own, DeBoer replied “Max is skating. I’m just going to leave it at that.”
So now it’s up to us to read between the quadruple-spaced lines. There’s a lot of room for interpretation here.
In my experience, and remember I spent five years on the team broadcaster side of things with the Nashville Predators, when a guy is skating on his own he is generally not ready to return to practice, let alone playoff games. Also, if it is an upper body injury, things like a bum wrist, elbow, shoulder etc. do not keep you from skating. What does keep you from skating are things like rib, back and core injuries. Or a concussion. So to just make a jump and assume any of those would be misguided at best, dangerously wrong at worst.
Here’s a big term that gets thrown around this time of year: pain management. If it is something muscular or skeletal, and there is no further chance of making things worse (ie. ligament already torn, you will need surgery, but it’s torn – you can’t make it worse) it becomes more about pain management. Can the player play with or through the ailment and can team doctors help with pain relief to make the player more comfortable.
Historically, hockey players are tough. Really tough. We’ve all heard stories about guys playing through extreme injuries or breaking a jaw and being back on the bench with a faceguard in the same game. I particularly remember a pissed-off JP Dumont demanding his tooth be pulled in-game so he could get back out there rather than deal with measures to try and save the tooth which would take far longer. These guys want to get back out there and help the team.
Ah, there’s the rub. Even if Pacioretty is able to manage the pain, is he going to help the team? If you can’t shoot or pass because of the injury but you can skate, that’s no help. The decision has to be made is a 100% healthy depth player better or worse as an option than whatever level Pacioretty would be able to play. Not an easy call. He’s the leading scorer. But if he can’t skate a regular shift, how many minutes can he give? If he can’t shoot but can pass is that enough? If he can only play power play is that worth the roster spot?
So many questions, and yet we really don’t know if Pacioretty can even make it through practice. For the record, he has not participated in any team skates be they practice, morning skate or a game the entire month of May.
While I wouldn’t rule out a dramatic return for Game Seven, don’t count on seeing a masked Max Pacioretty wearing a cape and tights on Friday.