In this edition of Vegas Golden Knights News & Rumors, Mark Stone was able to return on Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks after having been out of the lineup since early February. Meanwhile, Reilly Smith remains on the long-term injured reserve (LTIR), and could still be there for some time. In other news, Robin Lehner is getting fed up with criticism from fans, and as a result he chose to delete his twitter account last week.
Stone Activated From LTIR
On Monday, head coach Pete DeBoer said that Stone had a chance to suit up the following night versus the Canucks. That turned out to be the case, as the 29-year-old was able to play for the first time since being placed on LTIR in early February with a nagging back injury. His return bodes well for the Golden Knights, who are desperate for wins right now as they look to find their way back into a playoff spot.
In order to make room for Stone and his $9.5 million cap hit, management needed to get creative. Prior to activating Stone, they placed Laurent Brossoit, William Carrier, and Nolan Patrick all on LTIR. This gave them the room they needed, and while some will complain, nothing they are doing right now is outside of NHL rules. Despite it seeming suspicious to some, all three who were placed on the LTIR have missed time lately with injury, so it isn’t as if any of this popped up out of nowhere.
Stone’s return to the lineup didn’t go as planned, as he played less than 18 minutes and was held pointless on the night. His minutes should begin to increase as he gets back to game speed, and if he is able to play up to the level he is capable of, the Golden Knights have a great shot to get into the playoffs. Prior to being placed on LTIR he had eight goals and 28 points through 28 games.
Lehner Deletes Twitter Account
The 2021-22 season has not gone the way Lehner would have liked. Injuries have limited him to just 42 games, and even when he has played he has been far from his best. His 2.82 goals-against average (GAA) along with his .907 save percentage (SV%) have drawn the ire from plenty of Golden Knights fans, many of whom aren’t happy he is the team’s starting netminder because they preferred Marc-Andre Fleury.
While critiquing play is one thing, some fans have taken it too far, and were letting Lehner know how they felt about him and his performance on Twitter. It is unfortunate that some chose to stoop to that level, particularly given how open the 30-year-old has been in the past about his mental health issues. Clearly, the negativity was getting to him, as he chose to delete his Twitter account last week.
“I just thought it was time,” Lehner said. “It is unfortunate. It has been a very good tool for me to help a lot of people but it has also been a good tool that has not been good for me as well. At the end of the day, I have to take care of myself first. It has not been an easy climate for us out there. I have been fine with that before but sometimes enough is enough.”
Hopefully deleting Twitter can help turn Lehner’s game around, as this team could really use him at his best. When he is playing like he can, he is one of the games better starting netminders. Perhaps removing himself from what can be a distraction at times will help him get back to that level.
Smith Not Believed to Be Close to a Return
Another player on the Golden Knights’ roster who has battled injury this season is Smith. The 31-year-old hasn’t played since suffering a knee injury over a month ago, and from the sound of things he is not close to returning.
With just eight games remaining this season for the Golden Knights, it is very possible, if not likely, that Smith’s regular season is finished. If that is the case, he ends it having recorded 16 goals and 38 points in 56 games. Whether or not he may be able to return in the playoffs remains to be seen.
Up Next for the Golden Knights
The Golden Knights have two games remaining on their schedule, both of which will come against divisional opponents. First up is a game against the Calgary Flames, who have been fantastic all season long, and currently sit first in the Pacific Division. Saturday night will see them face off against the Edmonton Oilers, a team who has been up and down all season long but is on a big-time high right now, having gone 7-2-1 over their past 10 games. Neither game will be easy, but it is crucial the Golden Knights find a way to come out with some points as they look to jump ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for third in the Pacific.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.