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Pacioretty says would be 'hardest Stanley Cup to win' for Golden Knights

Forward believes pause will create 'most special playoffs' if contested

by @NHLdotcom

Max Pacioretty said this would be the most difficult Stanley Cup to win if the NHL season is able to resume and determine a champion.

"I think this will be the hardest Stanley Cup to win out of all of them. Look at all the obstacles," the Vegas Golden Knights forward told their website in an interview published Saturday. "Who knows when we're going to play, where, fans or no fans, everything is up in the air.

"With that being said, whatever teams that have been banged up are healing up right now. They're getting their bodies ready, and you better believe everyone around the League is trying to get every advantage possible in terms of recovery and getting in whatever shape they can. Most teams go into the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] beat up, but that won't be the case this year. Guys are going to be healthy and teams are going to be able to show their true forms with pretty much every player on the roster.

"For me, I look at it as this will be one of the most special playoffs since I can remember. Teams aren't going to have any excuses. It's going to be your full team ready to rock and ready to go."

There is no timetable for the NHL to return after the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Vegas (39-24-8) leads the Pacific Division trying to make the playoffs for a third straight season since joining the NHL. The Golden Knights reached the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, losing to the Washington Capitals.

Pacioretty, in his second season with Vegas, said he believes the Golden Knights are a contender for the championship. They are 15-5-2 since Peter DeBoer took over as coach after Gerard Gallant was fired Jan. 15, and won 11 of the final 13 games before play was stopped.

"We were playing some very, very good hockey up until the pause," Pacioretty said. "That's with injuries, key guys out, a coaching change and learning new systems. We were playing some very strong hockey, probably by far our best since I've been here. That being said, it's up to us as players to come back after this break and pick up where we left off. It's going to take a lot of hard work to do so. Teams are going to have a little bit more time to study the way we've been playing. Coaches are probably going to look at tape of other teams right now and try to pick up habits. It's really important we pick up where we left off and start up even stronger again. …

"We really like the team that we have. We feel they've done a great job of addressing every need to give us the resources and players to go compete for the ultimate prize. Now it's up to us to do it."

Video: VGK@CGY: Pacioretty strikes on power play

Pacioretty leads Vegas with 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) in 71 games this season. He would have been sidelined by a lower-body injury if play was not interrupted and said he is working to be ready if the season restarts.

"I mean, if we had to wait six months and play in Antarctica, I'd be willing to do that," the 31-year-old said. "We have a special group. We want to do whatever we can to finish out this year because we feel we have a group that's capable of doing special things and it's up to us as a group to try and achieve that when we do get started."

Pacioretty played his first 10 NHL seasons for the Montreal Canadiens. He was traded to Vegas before last season for forwards Nick Suzuki, Tomas Tatar and a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Pacioretty said a long playoff run would help the community, much as it did in 2018 following a mass shooting in the city.

"If we can take any motivation from this to give people hope, something to cheer for, help people out economically by bringing people to Vegas in the future and getting excited for our team. That motivates us as players," he said. "I think we have a special bond here with our fans and the city. It motivates us as players to do what we can to win for both ourselves and teammates, but also the people in Las Vegas, the fans that have been genuinely behind us since Day One."

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