Arizona Coyotes' Michael Stone upbeat during injury recovery
Sarah McLellan, azcentral sports12:05 p.m. MST April 16, 2016
Although the stitches are gone, signs of a lengthy recovery still exist.
There’s the brace strapped to his left knee and the crutches that
help him walk.
But what doesn’t tip off the challenges that await Coyotes defenseman
Michael Stone after undergoing surgery to repair his ACL and MCL is his attitude.
“The situation sucks, but I’m not going to feel sorry for myself,”
he said. “This happens to a lot of people. I was lucky enough to
have it happen near the end of the season. Now I have a full summer to
get it fixed.”
Stone was injured March 26 after getting tangled along the boards with the Flyers’ Michael
Raffl in the third period.
He felt his left knee pop and immediately realized he was in trouble.
“It wasn’t really super painful,” Stone recalled. “I
just knew there something wrong and knew I needed help.”
The 25-year-old underwent surgery April 1, and stitches were removed last Monday.
expected to take at least six months.
Stone believes he tore his ACL completely but isn’t sure about his
MCL. It, however, was injured enough that it also had to be repaired.
In another couple weeks, Stone plans to find out how long he’ll
be have to continue wearing a brace and using crutches.
“We’re making positives steps, as positive as they can be,” he said.
Already Stone has started therapy, trying to move his knee as far as it’ll
bend, but he has no idea when he’ll be able to get back on the ice,
nor does he have a return date in mind.
“Maybe I could be back for the start of the season,” Stone
said. “I wouldn’t call it a goal because I don’t want
to push myself to the point that it ends up backfiring on me. I just look
at it a day at a time, and we’ll see what happens.”
Not affixing a timeline to a recovery is actually normal for an injury
like this since so many factors are in play, said Dr. Bert Mandelbaum,
an orthopedic surgeon and co-chair of the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.
How well the tissue heals, balance and fitness are just a few of variables
that determine how long until a player is ready to return to action.
“It’s a very individualist thing, and you’ve gotta fulfill
several criteria,” Mandelbaum said.
Stone’s recovery coincides with an important offseason for the blue line.
The Coyotes currently have only Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Zbynek Michalek
under contract for next season with Stone among five restricted free agents
the team will have to evaluate.
A reunion seems inevitable considering the niche Stone has carved as a
Coyotes starting to look to future as busy offseason awaits
He logs heavy minutes, working both sides of special teams, and helps ignite
offense with a booming shot.
But the team might have to increase its options if Stone is unable to return
for the start of the season – mind you, the unit might be poised
to receive outside help via trade or free agency anyway, after posting
the third-highest goals-against average (2.98).
“They’ll probably get a little better read on his progress
as you start to get into July and August,” coach Dave Tippett said.
“You’ll have an evaluation if it’s on track or behind.”
Stone figures he’ll have to wear a knee brace when he does get back
on the ice, but he isn’t concerned about not being at full strength.
“From everything that I hear, there’s a pretty good success
rate,” he said.
That has to be encouraging for the Coyotes, who watched Stone record career-highs
in assists (30), points (36) and shots (161) before his injury.
“I was feeling confident in the way I was playing,” Stone said.
“I was feeling confident in some of the stuff I was doing offensively
again. I was feeling like I was back to just playing hockey, not thinking
about anything, just playing hockey. So hopefully that can continue.”