TORONTO — Max Pacioretty has one more small hurdle to clear before he returns to the lineup.
The Golden Knights’ injured left wing will participate in Tuesday’s morning skate, and barring a setback, is expected to play against the host Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.
“It’s going in the right direction. Everything looks good, but I can’t say he’s going to play yet,” coach Gerard Gallant said Monday. “He’s getting close, and hopefully it’s (Tuesday) night, but I’ll know that after the morning skate when the medical guys clear him. I’m hoping they’re going to clear him, but we’ll see.”
Pacioretty, who missed the past four games with an upper-body injury, was a full participant during the 45-minute practice at Mastercard Centre in the Etobicoke section of the city.
He took line rushes with center Erik Haula and right wing Alex Tuch on the second line and worked with the No. 2 power-play unit.
“I felt good today. We’ll talk to the trainers and talk to the coaches and see where it goes,” Pacioretty said. “Obviously it’s a good sign that I’m practicing out there with contact.”
Pacioretty was hurt in the first period of the Knights’ 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Oct. 26 when he was flattened by Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn.
The blow caught Pacioretty in the face, but he did not think it was a dirty hit by Coburn when asked Monday about the play.
“It ended up that I got hit right in the nose, really. That part of it, obviously people would question it,” Pacioretty said. “But I think what transpired and what happened leading up to the hit was uncontrollable, so I felt it was just a hockey play.”
Rather than being upset about the hit, Pacioretty was more frustrated at the timing of when he was injured.
He scored his second goal of the season the previous game against Vancouver on Oct. 24 and believed he was starting to develop chemistry with his linemates.
“I really felt my game and the team’s game was starting to come around and then, boom, I got hurt right away, second shift of the game,” Pacioretty said. “When you don’t pick up points and you’re not playing, you just feel like you’ve got to get back out there and help your team. Hopefully when I come back, I can help contribute.”
Center William Karlsson insists he didn’t cut his hair to change his luck.
“It was getting long, so I just wanted a haircut,” Karlsson explained. “I was like, ‘Let’s go kind of short so I have room to grow it, you know?’ That’s pretty much what it is. Just something new.”
Karlsson has three goals in 14 games after posting a career-high 43 last season. When informed a large section of his fanbase — mostly female — are disappointed his blond locks were reduced, Karlsson rolled his eyes and blushed.
“It’ll be back in a month or two,” he said. “They don’t have to worry.”
Games missed by the Golden Knights due to injury/illness
Paul Stastny: 11 games *
Alex Tuch: 8 games
Max Pacioretty: 4 games *
Cody Eakin: 3 games
Deryk Engelland: 3 games
Ryan Carpenter: 1 game
* injured as of Nov. 5