Mark Stone on being in Golden Knights’ Game 1 lineup: ‘Wasn’t super confident’ he’d be back

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Mark Stone on being in Golden Knights’ Game 1 lineup: ‘Wasn’t super confident’ he’d be back

DALLAS — Golden Knights captain Mark Stone will be in the lineup for Game 1 of the first-round series against the Dallas Stars on Monday after missing more than two months because of a lacerated spleen.

Stone missed the final 26 games of the regular season after suffering the injury against the Nashville Predators on Feb. 20. He had been inching closer to a return, practicing with the team for the first time on April 12. He was cleared for full contact Saturday and will suit up for the playoff opener.

“I’ve done a lot of hard work to try to get here today,” Stone said following the morning skate Monday morning at American Airlines Center. “I feel healthy. I feel ready. The scans look great. Doctors feel confident in me playing, so I’m going to play.”

The Golden Knights, attempting to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, have come under criticism for the fact that they were able to use Stone’s salary-cap space, while he was injured, to acquire players before the trade deadline. With Stone returning, the Knights would be over the salary cap if this were a regular-season game, but those rules do not apply in the postseason. A similar situation played out a year ago, when Stone recovered from back surgery. Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon addressed the criticism on Saturday, calling it “a lot of speculation and a lot of insinuation about his injury.”

Stone will play on the right wing of the second line beside Tomas Hertl and Chandler Stephenson. He’s played with Stephenson for most of the last five seasons but has never suited up with Hertl, who Vegas traded for at the deadline. Coach Bruce Cassidy said there won’t be a minutes restriction on Stone. He expects the captain to resume his usual roles on the power play and penalty kill.

“Ultimately I haven’t played in quite some time,” Stone said. “I’m probably not going to be … well, I’d be pretty happy if I’m at my best tonight, but we’ll see how I feel. I’m going to have to play a smart game.”

Stone’s recovery process for the lacerated spleen differed from the rehab for a typical hockey injury.

“It sucked. The first couple of weeks were real tough,” he said. “You can’t really do anything physical. You’re kind of just sitting around waiting for it to heal. I think it’s even harder because you actually start to feel better relatively quickly, but you look at the scans and you’re nowhere close to healthy, so that was a tough part of it.”

Stone said that unlike last season — when he was recovering from back surgery — the timeline for a potential return was much more cloudy.

“I wasn’t super confident that I’d be standing here today ready to go. I had some people tell me it was eight weeks, and some people tell me it was six months. It was just a wait-and-see how the scans go.

“I think last week, the last scan I did, I felt like I was moving in the right direction and getting close to playing, and the last scan kind of confirmed it and now I’m ready to go.”



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Before the injury, Stone was on pace for a career-high in points, registering 53 points in 56 games for Vegas. It was the third straight season he missed significant time due to injury. Stone underwent two back surgeries in nine months, and has played in only 136 games over the last three seasons.

Last year, he returned at the start of the postseason and found his game relatively quickly. After registering no points and finishing with a minus-3 rating in Game 1, Stone went on to put up 24 points in the next 21 playoff games, including a hat trick in the Cup-clinching game against Florida on June 13.

“Mark went through this last year where he missed an extended period of time and had to find his way in at a high level, so let’s hope he can do that again this year,” Cassidy said. “We’re not going to put a governor on him, per se. The eye test will tell us where his conditioning level is at, but there are no restrictions on him going in.”

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(Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)