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Tortorella says Pacioretty has to earn minutes after team-low 13 shifts in loss to Canada

Coach John Tortorella said Max Pacioretty is going to be “a pretty important player” for USA in the World Cup, but Tortorella needs more out of Pacioretty if he’s going to get more ice time.

Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty finds himself in an unfamiliar position two games into the World Cup pre-tournament schedule.

In USA’s 5-2 loss to Canada on Saturday, Pacioretty skated a mere 10:05 — the second-lowest ice time of any player on the team behind Kyle Palmieri, who skated 10:02 on 19 shifts — and was only sent onto the ice 13 times throughout the game by coach John Tortorella. No player had their number called fewer times, and Pacioretty’s ice time was nearly five minutes less than he had in the opening game of the World Cup pre-tournament games.

Pacioretty’s lack of playing time, especially in a game in which USA could have used some offensive threats, is surprising given he’s one of the most gifted scorers on the entire team. Pacioretty has scored 106 goals over the past three seasons — behind only Joe Pavelski’s 116 among American players — and ranks fifth among American skaters over that span with 191 points. 

So looking at his measly 10 minutes in last night’s game, one might surmise that Pacioretty is either injured or ill. That’s not the case according to Tortorella, though, as he said Pacioretty simply hasn’t earned the ice time.

“He’s OK, but I need more out of him,” Tortorella said post-game, via Sportsnet. “I know how he can play, and this is what happens in this type of tournament and the team makeup. You’re not going to get your 20 minutes…Max has to give me some reason to give him more minutes, so we’ll see where it goes. We know he’s a really good player, great kid, but we just have to get a little bit more out of him.”

That Tortorella is already singling out Pacioretty might not bode well for the 27-year-old’s ice time in coming games, but maybe the decrease in minutes this past game could have been seen coming. In USA’s victory over Canada in the first pre-tournament game, Pacioretty skated a solid 14:51, but his 22 shifts were more than only Palmieri and David Backes. And with James van Riemsdyk coming into the lineup and playing well, Tortorella said there were less minutes to go around. That impacted Pacioretty.

As the tournament wears on, though, Pacioretty could very well end up back in Tortorella’s good graces. The American team will have one last tuneup game against Finland on Tuesday and a good practice or two could get Pacioretty a shot at more ice time. Pacioretty will need to prove himself in short order, though, because Tortorella said the short tournament complicates things.

“I can’t wait. You can’t,” Tortorella added. “You have to get guys into situations where you think they’re going to produce for you. Really, Max is a pretty important player for us. We hope he gets going and does some of the things we need him to do.”

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