The Golden Knights took the ice Thursday night for a key divisional game against the San Jose Sharks with Brandon Pirri slotted into the lineup on the second line.
It didn’t seem like that would be the case a few hours earlier, when the breakout star appeared on the transaction wire as having been sent back down to the Knights’ American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago. His name also was removed from the official NHL roster.
An hour later, he was mysteriously back with the Knights.
A team spokesperson declined comment on the odd transaction that triggered a social media blitz among Knights watchers.
General manager George McPhee appeared on the television pregame show, but didn’t address the roster move.
McPhee did say Pirri’s strong play in his first eight games with the team would force the organization to make some difficult roster decisions.
“It’s never a problem when you have too many guys playing well,” McPhee said. “You find room for them. We’ll make decisions, but he’s doing a real nice job. He’s got a gift. He’s very intelligent, he’s got quick hands and he can score goals.”
There’s no question about that. The 27-year-old forward had seven goals in eight games with the Knights this season after scoring three in a brief two-game audition last season.
His inclusion in Thursday’s lineup means if Pirri plays one more game for the Knights, he would have to clear waivers before being sent to the AHL again.
Pirri has already been sent down twice the last couple weeks as the Knights try to manage his roster clock.
“I’m taking it day-by-day,” he said earlier this week. “When I was younger, I worried about stuff like that. But where I’m at in my life, I just worry about what I can control.For me, I just try to be the best player I can be every day and get a little bit better and keep proving myself when I get the call for the game.”
Pirri added he isn’t on social media, so he’s not fully aware of his surge in popularity. He’s also not keeping track of how many games he has to play before he reaches the point he’s no longer waiver-exempt.
“I pay a guy to do that,” he said.
Forward Valentin Zykov made his Knights debut nearly two weeks after he was claimed off waivers from Edmonton.
Zykov played on the third line with Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Carpenter, in place of a scratched Cody Eakin.
“He hasn’t played for us, so I’m looking forward to it,” coach Gerard Gallant said Thursday morning. “I know he’s worked hard in practice. He’s got some skill and some talent. Hopefully, he brings it all together.”
Goaltender Maxime Lagace was recalled from Chicago to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup with Malcolm Subban unavailable.
“Hopefully, not too long,” Gallant said of how long Subban would be out. “He doesn’t feel great, but I’m sick of the trainers coming to my office every day, to tell you the truth.”
Lagace was excited to be back on the roster regardless of how long his services are needed.
“I got off the ice at practice (in Chicago on Wednesday) and they told me,” Lagace said. “It was unexpected, but obviously, I’m happy about it. It’s good to be back here. I wish nothing but the best to Subban. I really hope he’s doing OK.”
Lagace appeared in 16 games for the Knights last season.