LAS VEGAS — Brandon Pirri has become a welcome headache for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Since being called up from the Chicago Wolves on Dec. 20, the 27-year-old has six goals and three assists in seven games, and he’s helped ignite the team’s hottest line. He and primary linemates Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny have a combined 12 goals and 10 assists in those games.
Vegas wants to keep the party going, but that might be difficult with Max Pacioretty expected off injured reserve soon.
General manager George McPhee and coach Gerard Gallant have a difficult decision:
Send down Pirri, who wouldn’t have to clear waivers since he’s only been with the team for seven games.
Or risk losing a different player on the waiver wire in an effort to keep Pirri on the active roster.
“We want people making hard decisions for us,” Gallant said. “Pirri’s come up here and done everything we’ve asked him to do, so when we have to make a tough decision, we’ll sit down and we’ll decide what we’re gonna do.”
Pirri, Tuch and Stastny have become a formidable trio. Stastny, a 14-year veteran, has urged his younger linemates to stay aggressive, and they’ve been finding each other all over the ice.
“He’s in the right spot at all times,” Pirri said of Stastny. “His character is so good, he talks on the bench, he makes my life and Tuckie’s life really easy. He tells you where he’s gonna be and we get him the puck.
“We got a good thing going here and it’s a lot of fun being on this line.”
Pacioretty has skated with the team this week and could return as soon as Friday night’s game in Anaheim. Someone will have to be re-assigned to Chicago, and it could be Pirri, who was named an AHL All-Star after leading the league with 41 points.
The other likely options would all have to be exposed to waivers and could be lost to another team. Those candidates include Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Carpenter, Tomas Nosek or recently acquired Valentin Zykov, claimed off waivers on Dec. 29.
Pirri, Tuch and Stastny have outscore the team’s other active forwards by two points since Pirri’s recall.
“I gotta be consistent, make the (upper) brass’ job really difficult,” Pirri said. “That’s all I can control, I’m just trying to work hard every day. If I’m consistent, that’s what every NHL team is looking for and it’s gonna show up night in and night out.”
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W.G. Ramirez, The Associated Press