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Return of Chandler Stephenson is ‘on the horizon’ for the Golden Knights

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Vegas’ 1C has missed the past three games.

Colorado Avalanche v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Four Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

The Golden Knights may soon have their No. 1 center back in the lineup.

Chandler Stephenson has missed the past three games due to an undisclosed injury, but coach Pete DeBoer says his return is within distance.

“We’ve played this series without our No. 1 centerman so far,” DeBoer said. “We want to get him back in the lineup, and I think that’s on the horizon.”

“On the horizon” has become this site’s favorite DeBoer-ism because of its many meanings. The horizon could be staring you dead in the face. It might be a mile away. It could also be so far away with no hope in sight.

But when DeBoer says it, it’s usually close, and that’s a good sign for the Golden Knights, who tied the Stanley Cup Semifinals at 2-2 on Sunday with a 2-1 overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens. Game 5 is Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena.

Stephenson’s absence has tested the Golden Knights depth, all while trying things that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense at first; i.e., first-line center Alex Tuch, top-center Nic Roy, or graduating Tomas Nosek to those duties.

Outside of Tuch, Stephenson’s speed is missed inbetween Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. The Vegas captain doesn’t have a point this series, and Pacioretty has assists in consecutive games, including Sunday’s OT winner at 1:18 of the extra frame.

The Golden Knights won 4-1 in Game 1, the lone contest Stephenson played in. He had an assist in 17:26.

Stephenson isn’t the end-all, be-all to Vegas’ offense, but he would be a welcomed addition to a forward group that has amassed three goals in four games; two of them have come from third-line center Roy. The top six has not scored a goal in this series.

Seven different defensemen have scored a goal for the Golden Knights in the playoffs.

“It’s great that we’ve tied the series, but at some point, the big guys are going to have to step up, including myself,” said forward Jonathan Marchessault. “We’re facing an unbelievable goalie [Carey Price], but that’s no excuse. It’s the same thing against Vancouver, Dallas [last postseason] it’s the same thing. We’ve got to find a way and we don’t have any excuses. We need solutions ASAP and help our team win some games.”