Pacioretty’s nightmare first Vegas season continues with IR stint

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It’s probably a good thing that Max Pacioretty got his contract extension sorted out before 2018-19 even started, because so little has gone right during his first season with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Pacioretty struggled through what must have been a wildly frustrating start, only managing an assist in his first eight games, and just a goal and an assist through his first 14.

Injuries really started to rear their ugly head for Pacioretty lately, just as he was starting to develop some intriguing chemistry with Alex Tuch – and just as Paul Stastny was set to return from his own frustrating start with Vegas. First, there was all sorts of confusion regarding whether or not Pacioretty was a healthy scratch or dealing with a minor lower-body injury, which brought out his agent’s sardonic side.

Pacioretty returned on Dec. 16 to grab an assist, but then suffered a different injury during Vegas’ 1-0 loss to the Blue Jackets on Dec. 17. It looked innocuous enough, but what seems like a knee injury will land Pacioretty on the IR, which means he’ll be sidelined until Dec. 27 at the earliest. About the only bright side is that the Golden Knights can call up a fairly accomplished forward in Brandon Pirri, who (gasp) had to cancel a date night to suit up for Vegas. (Was Pirri planning board games? A viewing of “Game Night?”)

Again, this is a bummer, as Pacioretty scored 17 points in his last 20 games after only managing two in his first 10. Vegas was getting the player they traded for, and the one they’re giving a raise to starting in 2019-20.

Hopefully these struggles end up looking like mere speed bumps in hindsight.

Vegas should be credited for showing some restraint in Pacioretty’s deal, as his substantial $7M cap hit starts in 2019-20, but only extends through 2022-23. Many were worried that a team would sign “Patches” to an even riskier deal. That said, he’s already 30, and has dealt with some serious injuries, so the already-legitimate threat of the “aging curve” looms even larger than usual here.

On the bright side, the Golden Knights have been trending upward in general, going 10-3-1 in their last 14 games, to the point that they’re holding a wild-card spot as of this writing. A rejuvenated Pacioretty helped with that cause, but if Vegas can hold down the fort and the winger can heal up, the Golden Knights could once again be a dangerous foe in big games.

None of that changes the feeling that it’s been a very unlucky first season for Pacioretty in Vegas, however.

The Golden Knights’ medical staff might give a more extensive update on Pacioretty later today, so we’ll get an idea of the damage soon enough.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.