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Alec Martinez speaks up after long road to recovery

Updated March 26, 2022 - 4:58 pm

Alec Martinez couldn’t wait a full game to speak out.

The Golden Knights defenseman, playing for the first time since Nov. 11, had to let his team know in the second intermission of its game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday that a 3-0 deficit wasn’t going to cut it. Not with so much at stake down the stretch.

Martinez, using his usual dry sense of humor, didn’t want his words to get any credit for the Knights’ subsequent third-period rally and 5-4 overtime victory. He joked he hadn’t even been in the locker room in four-and-a-half months and “here I am running my mouth.”

But there’s no doubt his passion, and his presence, made an impact. They showed how much the 34-year-old was missed, and how critical his return is as the Knights push for the playoffs.

“It was just great to see him,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Really energized our group on a night we needed some energy and some juice.”

Martinez didn’t want to get into the details of the injury that kept him out of the lineup for 135 days.

He suffered a facial laceration that required more than 50 stitches after taking a skate to the face against the Minnesota Wild and had a frustrating road to recovery. Martinez, boasting a long horizontal scar on the left side of his face below his eye, said it was “probably one of the toughest things” he’s gone through in his career.

He said he’d be lying if he didn’t consider the possibility it could have been career-ending.

Martinez started skating with the Knights in a non-contact jersey Jan. 4 and graduated to a full-contact sweater Jan. 20. It took him a long time to get cleared to play. He would participate in some team skates, then be absent for others. DeBoer said Martinez would “take a step forward and then two steps back.”

He got over his final hurdle Saturday. He had a lengthy list of people to thank afterwards, from Knights head athletic trainer Jay Mellette to his doctors, wife, family and teammates. He played 13:48, had three hits and blocked two shots in the team’s comeback win.

The two-time Stanley Cup champion also wore an “A” for alternate captain in his first game back and earned it with his intermission speech.

He said he didn’t say anything his teammates hadn’t heard before. Of course, that wasn’t the point. It wasn’t what he said. It was the fact he was there to be able to say it.

“We love having Marty in the room,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “To have him back is really important.”

Carrier exits early

Left wing William Carrier didn’t return for the third period Saturday with a lower-body injury.

Carrier has 18 points in 58 games. He ended his last shift with 47 seconds remaining in the second period. Carrier’s injury and the Knights’ 3-0 deficit led DeBoer to shorten his bench in the third period and overtime.

Center Jake Leschyshyn only took one shift after the second period and left wing Jonas Rondbjerg didn’t get one.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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