Max Pacioretty was slotted into Reilly Smith’s usual spot on the Golden Knights’ top forward line for Tuesday night’s game against the New York Rangers.
He’s expected to stay there for at least the next two games.
Smith was listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but was placed on injured reserve shortly before the puck dropped at T-Mobile Arena.
He was injured Sunday and likely will miss Thursday’s home game against San Jose and Saturday’s game at Chicago, though the team has given no indication of the extent of his absence beyond this weekend.
Coach Gerard Gallant downplayed the significance of Pacioretty’s placement on the first line.
It allowed Brandon Pirri, who was recalled from the team’s American Hockey League Affiliate in Chicago, to rejoin the second line with Paul Stastny and Alex Tuch.
Pirri delivered again, too, scoring in the second period to give the Knights a 2-0 lead.
“We have two first lines,” Gallant said Tuesday morning. “It’s a different line. We’ve changed the lines so much in the last two or three weeks that I don’t even know what they are until I look at the board. You mix and match guys all the time so there’s no issue with that. (Max) is excited to play there and Pirri played really well with the other guys so I’m not concerned about that.”
Jonathan Marchessault was just fine with the restructured unit.
“We’re lucky on this team to be able to play with quality players every night,” he said. “Max is a great player. He’s been successful for so many years and we definitely need to take advantage of his strengths.”
New blood on the top line could prove beneficial for Marchessault, who had been in a drought lately.
Marchessault hadn’t scored a goal since Dec. 22 and had only two assists in seven games during that span, but found the net late in the second period.
“It’s just the way it goes sometimes,” he said before the game. “You just have to keep working hard and keep doing the right things at the right time. I think we’re playing well defensively and if you get chances normally it’s going to come very soon. We keep finding a way to win every night, so that’s what matters. If we were losing games and I didn’t produce, it would be different.”
All defenseman Nate Schmidt could do was laugh when asked about his pregame appearance on the scoreboard as he danced and sang along with Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” during pregame warmups on Sunday.
“Oh, did they catch me on the big screen?” he said. “That’s funny. I was just kind of feeling it.”
Schmidt said it’s not that song in particular, but the entire warmup track played in the arena that gets him pumped to take the ice.
“I do like Usher, but it can really be anything,” he said. “It just kind of depends where you’re at in the warmups and how you’re feeling. I love our warmup. Even if you’re a little sleepy or coming off a road trip or whatever, it will wake you right up. It’s awesome. It will get you fired up for the game.”