Knights, without Mark Stone, look to end home skid vs. Leafs

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 2:46 AM

After learning captain and top scorer Mark Stone will be sidelined “for a while,” the Vegas Golden Knights will try to snap a season-worst, three-game home losing streak on Thursday night when they face the Toronto Maple Leafs in Las Vegas.

Stone, who has scored 16 goals and totaled 53 points, sustained an upper-body injury during a collision with Nashville’s Yakov Trenin late in the second period of Vegas’ 5-3 loss to the Predators on Tuesday.

Although coach Bruce Cassidy was unable to provide an update on Stone’s status after the game, general manager Kelly McCrimmon, appearing Wednesday on the “The Sick Podcast — The Eye Test” with former NHL coach/executive Pierre McGuire and Boston Bruins reporter Jimmy Murphy, said Stone won’t be back soon.

“He’s going to be out of our lineup for a while is what I can tell you right now,” McCrimmon said. “We’ll see what the timeline looks like.”

Stone appeared to take the brunt of Trenin’s blow in the chest and rib cage area. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the injury was unrelated to the back issues that required Stone to undergo a pair of surgeries that limited him to 37 games in 2021-22 and 43 games last season.

“Obviously, we know how special a player Mark is, but any of our guys, you never want to see a guy go down,” Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “Tough when your captain goes down like that.”

McCrimmon did have some good news on the injury front for Golden Knights fans. Center Jack Eichel, second on the team with 19 goals and tied for second with 44 points despite being out since Jan. 11 with a lower-body injury that prompted surgery, is “not far off” according to McCrimmon.

“He’s not ready to go now, but he’ll be playing in the not-too-distant future,” McCrimmon said.

The Golden Knights, who have lost three of their past four games, are 10 points behind the Pacific Division-leading Canucks and are just two points ahead of the third-place Oilers. Vancouver has played 58 games, Vegas 56 and Edmonton 53.

Toronto, which will be playing the second game of a back-to-back set, extended its winning streak to five games on Wednesday. Auston Matthews continued his record-breaking season with two more goals in a 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes in Tempe, Ariz.

Matthews, who grew up nearby Scottsdale, scored goals No. 50 and 51 to become the fastest U.S.-born player in NHL history to hit the 50-goal mark in a season, doing it in 54 games. The old mark was 62 games, held by Matthews (2021-22) and Kevin Stevens (1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins).

The last NHL player to get to 50 goals in a campaign faster than Matthews was Mario Lemieux, who hit the milestone in 50 games for the 1995-96 Penguins.

It was the 15th multi-goal game of the season for Matthews, who is on pace to score 76 goals. His second goal of the night was the 350th of his career.

“It’s great,” Matthews said. “It’s a small step in the long season, but obviously coming to play at home and playing a team that has had our number for the last couple of seasons. It was a good win, a good effort, everybody contributed. I’ll take the two points and get back at it (Thursday).”

Forward Mitch Marner, who assisted on both of Matthews’ goals, said, “He’s obviously a special player. We’re lucky to have him. He’s in his hometown, a lot of people here, a lot of family, a lot of loved ones. He’s meant a lot to this city, so to get it here is pretty special.”

Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, who served a five-game suspension for a cross-check to the head of the Ottawa Senators’ Ridly Greig, is expected to return to the lineup against Vegas.

–Field Level Media