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Knights' Stone returns for Game 1 vs. Stars

Jeff Bottari / National Hockey League / Getty

Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone returned to the lineup on Monday for Game 1 of his club's opening round against the Dallas Stars.

Stone was sidelined for the last 26 games of the regular season after sustaining a lacerated spleen on Feb. 20 against the Nashville Predators. Vegas went 13-11-2 in his absence and ended the campaign in the second wild-card spot of the Western Conference.

He racked up 16 goals and 53 points in 56 games prior to his absence.

The Golden Knights also welcomed back for defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and forward William Carrier.

Pietrangelo missed the past seven games and 13 of the last 15 contests. He was initially sidelined by an illness, but he ended up needing to get his appendix removed.

Carrier, meanwhile, last played on March 25 and has since been out with an upper-body injury.

Stone was cleared for contact and was a full participant in practice on Saturday.

Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy said before the game he doesn't expect to limit Stone's minutes, though he'll keep an eye on him and make adjustments if necessary, per The Athletic's Jesse Granger.

Stone was in a similar position last year. He sat out the second half of the regular season with a back injury but was able to return for the first game of the postseason.

The veteran forward didn't seem to be hampered by his ailment, recording 11 goals and 24 points in 22 games to help the Golden Knights lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.

"I think last year I had more of a distinct timeline," Stone said Monday. "This year, I wasn't super confident that I'd be standing here today ready to go. The timeline was a lot more - not delicate, but I guess longer. I had some people tell me it was eight weeks, some people tell me it was six months. It was just a wait-and-see, see how the scans go."

Stone and his $9.5-million cap hit were on long-term injured reserve the past two deadlines, giving general manager Kelly McCrimmon more room to bolster his squad.

In 2023, the Golden Knights added forwards Ivan Barbashev and Teddy Blueger, as well as goaltender Jonathan Quick. This season, Vegas brought in winger Anthony Mantha, forward Tomas Hertl, and rearguard Noah Hanifin.

McCrimmon said in March that it was "ridiculous to suggest" the Golden Knights are exploiting the league's LTIR system.

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