NEWARK, N.J. — Paul Stastny collected the puck near the blue line, made a quick shoulder shimmy and whipped a low shot past goaltender Malcolm Subban during a breakaway drill at the end of practice Thursday.
The Golden Knights center looks to be fully recovered from the lower-body injury that has sidelined him for more than two months.
But if Stastny can’t break into the lineup Friday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, he’ll understand why.
“Everyone’s playing well right now, right?” Stastny said. “When you’re winning, different lines are stepping up on different nights. Whatever the coaches feel comfortable with, I’ll do and I’ll respect that.”
Coach Gerard Gallant, who rarely changes his lineup after victories, acknowledged after Wednesday’s victory over the Islanders that Stastny was ready to return.
The delay is largely because of the play of the third line, which produced a goal in three straight games.
Tomas Nosek had the go-ahead goal early in the third period Wednesday when he cleaned up a rebound after Oscar Lindberg’s shot was stopped.
Ryan Carpenter potted the Knights’ first goal in a 4-2 win over Dallas on Sunday, and Lindberg scored the lone goal in Saturday’s 5-1 loss at Los Angeles.
Since joining forces Dec. 6, Carpenter, Lindberg and Nosek have produced three goals and five assists in four games.
In addition, Nosek has turned into a beast in the faceoff circle, winning 68.4 percent of his draws (52-24). That’s the top percentage in the league by anyone with more than 75 faceoffs.
Stastny was one of four skaters to participate in the Knights’ optional practice, joining forward William Carrier and defensemen Brad Hunt and Jon Merrill.
“It’s always tough when you can’t be out there helping the guys out, whether you’re not playing or whether you’re hurt, whatever the circumstance is,” Stastny said. “But as long as the team’s winning, that makes it more fun to watch, obviously, and more fun to be around the guys.”
New Jersey winger Taylor Hall left Thursday’s practice early and his status for the game against the Knights is unclear.
Hall, who won the Hart Memorial Trophy last season as the league’s most valuable player, departed midway through the workout at Prudential Center after speaking with trainers. He briefly returned to the ice, then headed back to the locker room.
“I don’t have much for you yet,” Devils coach John Hynes said afterward. “I just know they pulled him off for precautionary reasons and I haven’t talked to them yet.”
Hall has played in all 29 of New Jersey’s games and leads the team with 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists).