Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez hasn’t played a game in more than three months, something general manager Kelly McCrimmon said has led to “tremendous frustration” for the player.
It’s unclear when that feeling will cease.
Martinez suffered a facial laceration Nov. 11 against the Minnesota Wild and tested positive for COVID-19 in January during his recovery. He’s been a full participant in practices since Jan. 20 yet still hasn’t played.
McCrimmon declined to offer more specifics about what’s keeping Martinez out of the lineup. He did say the defenseman will meet with the team’s medical and training staff this week as well as specialists in the hopes of coming to a resolution.
“He might be one of the toughest hockey players that I’ve ever had the opportunity to be around,” McCrimmon said. “If this was doable, he’d be doing it. I assure you of that.”
Martinez has been a perfect fit for the Knights’ blue line since arriving Feb. 19, 2020. He has 43 points in 74 games with the team while playing in all situations. He even led the NHL in blocked shots in 2021.
That all led to a three-year extension this offseason, but Martinez has only played 11 games since signing it. McCrimmon said he thinks Martinez is close to playing his 12th but the team doesn’t know for sure.
“He’s a key player on our team,” McCrimmon said. “But he’s just not there.”
The Knights took a detour on their way back to Las Vegas last week.
The team, after losing to Calgary on Feb. 9, extended their time in Alberta by visiting Lake Louise in Banff National Park on Thursday. They also practiced in Banff, Alberta on Friday.
Coach Pete DeBoer said the trip was a way for the Knights to take advantage of their light February schedule that features eight games in 28 days. The team’s next game after the Calgary loss is Wednesday.
“You can only practice so much without that getting stale,” DeBoer said. “It was a chance to get away, get our group on the road, spend some time together in a great environment.”
Knights goaltender Robin Lehner didn’t practice Monday with an upper-body injury, McCrimmon said.
The team recalled goaltender Logan Thompson in Lehner’s place. Lehner has started 34 of the Knights’ 48 games and is 19-13-1 with a .907 save percentage and 2.86 goals-against average.
McCrimmon said Lehner’s availability for Wednesday’s game against Colorado is “uncertain at this point.”
— The Knights may have to wait for forward Ivan Morozov, a prospect McCrimmon said “we hold in very high regard.”
The 21-year-old’s season in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League is over. The KHL decided Feb. 5 to go straight to the playoffs when the Olympics are done and Morozov’s team didn’t make it. The 2018 second-round pick by the Knights is in the last year of his contract, so it’s possible he could join the organization soon.
But McCrimmon said Morozov’s contract doesn’t expire until April 30 and as of Monday he couldn’t say whether the Knights would be able to sign Morozov before that.
— McCrimmon said right wing Brendan Brisson, the team’s first-round pick in 2020, is having a “tremendous year” that is continuing at the Olympics.
Brisson has 17 goals and 15 assists in 29 games as a sophomore at Michigan, and two goals in three games with Team USA in Beijing.
“He’s doing what he does best,” McCrimmon said. “He’s a goal scorer.”