Golden Knights' Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo return to practice

Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo returned to practice Saturday as the team continues to monitor their progress ahead of Monday's playoff opener against the Dallas Stars.

Stone has been out of the Golden Knights' lineup since Feb. 20, when he was diagnosed with a lacerated spleen. It led to a long-term stint on injured reserve for the second year in a row. Last season, the 31-year-old had a second back surgery in a 13-month window that led to him being out of the lineup starting in mid-January before returning ahead of the team's first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets.

"We'll see how he responds with regard to his availability for Game 1," Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said.

Pietrangelo had a non-COVID illness in late March, McCrimmon said. He returned to games March 30 at Minnesota and April 2 against Vancouver, then was diagnosed with appendicitis. After undergoing an appendectomy, Pietrangelo sat out of practices while rehabilitating.

He said he was fully healed.

"It took a while," Pietrangelo said. "I wasn't too sure what the problem was. I'm glad to get that behind me just to recover. We took our time doing it the right way to make sure there was nothing to worry about. The last thing you want to do is go into a playoff game with that in the back of your mind."

Prior to his injury, Stone was having the best season of his career. He scored 16 goals and had 53 points in 56 games. He was on pace to finish with what would have been a career-high 78 points while logging more than 19 minutes in average ice time.

His absence led to the Golden Knights being one of the most active teams at the NHL trade deadline. Moving Stone and his $9.5 million cap hit to long-term injured reserve created the necessary cap space for them to get a top-nine forward in Anthony Mantha, a top-pairing defenseman in Noah Hanifin and to make the shock trade to get a top-six forward in Tomas Hertl within the final hour of the deadline.

With no salary cap restrictions in the playoffs, the Golden Knights would be free to activate Stone without needing to worry about a corresponding financial move.

Stone's return would give the Golden Knights another top-six forward who has been one of the most consistent players since he was traded to the club back in the 2018-19 season.

Last year, Stone scored 11 goals and finished with 23 points in 22 games to help the Golden Knights win their first Stanley Cup.

The Golden Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup Final after beating the Stars in six games during the Western Conference finals. This season, the Stars finished with the West's best record and were a point behind the New York Rangers for the Presidents' Trophy, while the Golden Knights secured the second and final Western Conference wild-card spot.

Also, Chandler Stephenson (undisclosed) and William Carrier (upper body) returned to practice. Stephenson missed the final two games of the regular season and Carrier didn't play in the final 11 games.

Anthony Mantha (undisclosed) remained in a noncontact jersey, and Jonathan Marchessault and Ben Hutton took maintenance days.

"Returning to health is going to be one of the big keys for our team," McCrimmon said. "We're going to be healthier going into the playoffs than we have been for a while."

Game 1 is set for 9:30 p.m. ET Monday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.