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Knights captain will use summer to heal after injury-riddled season

It’s not just the physical pain Mark Stone dealt with the past three seasons.

The mental side took the bigger beating.

The Golden Knights captain missed significant time because of injury for the third straight year, suffering a lacerated spleen that cost him the final 26 games of the regular season.

Back surgery in 2022 and 2023 already put a strain on him. Stone thought those issues were a thing of the past as this season went on. He didn’t miss a practice or a game through the first four months.

Suddenly, one hit during the second period Feb. 20 against the Nashville Predators set everything back.

“I didn’t come into this season expecting to lacerate my spleen,” Stone said.

Stone, who turns 32 Monday, is entering another offseason with the primary objective of rest and recovery. It might be just what his body needs after a rough postseason.

The right wing scored three goals in the seven-game series loss to the Dallas Stars but none of them at five-on-five — two on the power play and an empty-netter.

Stone scored a power-play goal in Game 1, but never seemed to find his footing.

“I don’t really like talking about that,” he said when asked how he felt as the series progressed. “I did the exact same thing last year. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but at the end of the day, if you’re going to go out there, you have to produce.”

He did produce last season when he returned for the playoffs, totaling 24 points in 22 games. That included a hat trick against the Florida Panthers in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, a 9-3 victory that gave the Knights their first championship and afforded Stone, as the captain, the right to hoist the Cup first.

There was no such celebration this season. After winning the first two games of the series at Dallas, the Knights lost four of the final five.

It was a collapse they didn’t see coming. They thought they had the talent to make another deep playoff run. General manager Kelly McCrimmon even called it the best team in the franchise’s seven-year history.

The problem, in McCrimmon’s eyes, was the Knights didn’t have enough time to jell because of injuries and acquisitions at the trade deadline.

Stone wasn’t the only player linked to that. Coach Bruce Cassidy started the Dallas series putting Tomas Hertl, acquired at the deadline, at left wing with Stone and center Chandler Stephenson.

Two players — Hertl and Stone — who hadn’t had regular-season reps together struggled to find chemistry. The line was outscored 2-0 at five-on-five.

”I think we’re both smart players and can develop that chemistry for a long time,” Hertl said after the series.

It’s no surprise Stone is confident the Knights can field a contender again next season. They would, of course, welcome their captain for close to a full season to alleviate some of those cohesive issues. He’s played just 99 games the past two seasons but has totaled 91 points.

Stone thinks he can get back to that point. He wants to be on the ice. He’ll have the opportunity after another offseason of rest.

“We gave ourselves a chance,” Stone said. “You don’t see teams repeat a lot often, especially in today’s game. A lot of guys in that room felt we could win again.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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