Mark Stone activated off LTIR, will return to Golden Knights' lineup for Game 1 against Jets
The Vegas Golden Knights announced Monday that Mark Stone has been activated off long-term injured reserve and is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday night for Game 1 of the best-of-seven first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets.
Stone has not played since Jan. 12 and has been out of the lineup indefinitely after undergoing back surgery – his second back surgery in under a year – on Jan. 31.
He had 38 points in 43 games at the time of his injury; despite missing three months of action, Stone finished fourth on the team in goals with 17.
This is a massive boost to a Golden Knights team that already had momentum entering the postseason.
The Golden Knights went 22-4-5 after the All-Star break en route to the club's third Pacific Division title in six seasons. Vegas finished first in the Western Conference with a franchise-best 111 points, securing home-ice advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
The 30-year-old native of Winnipeg will start out on the third line alongside former linemate Chandler Stephenson; he is expected to be on the top power-play unit, where his presence has been particularly missed.
Though the only captain in franchise history has missed considerable time, his value to this team is immeasurable. He is one of the best two-way forwards in the game, is a leader on and off the ice and significantly improves Vegas' play in all three zones.
"We just have to be careful we don't expect too much [in] his first game in a long time," Bruce Cassidy said. "No matter what, he'll be a positive influence for us."
Stone described the entire process as emotional and said that it brought tears to his eyes, but he's "excited to be back. It's been a long two years, so I don't want to miss this. I want to play with these guys. I'm excited to get back."
The timing of his return has been questioned around the league considering his $9.5 million of LTIR cap relief helped Vegas make additional moves at the deadline.
But Stone said Monday that after the initial injury, he "took two weeks to see if I could return, knowing that that was probably the last possible date that I could get the surgery and be back in time for [the playoffs]."
Stone began skating a few weeks ago and did not participate in practice until last Monday, at which point he was sporting a non-contact jersey. He was a full participant for the first time April 15.
Stone has 37 points in 46 playoff games with the Golden Knights.
Injured defenseman Zach Whitecloud also is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena. Cassidy confirmed that Laurent Brossoit will be Vegas' starter.