Stone’s season of growth may be cut short by injury

Mar 27, 2016, 11:20 AM
Arizona Coyotes' Michael Stone is helped off the ice after injuring his leg during the third period...

Arizona Coyotes' Michael Stone is helped off the ice after injuring his leg during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Flyers 2-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — When the 2015-16 season started, some Coyotes fans were wondering why the team didn’t pursue free-agent defenseman Cody Franson to shore up a blue line that is probably lacking one or two players for its top six.

Money was one factor. Franson signed a two-year, $6.65 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres that the Coyotes probably thought was too much to spend. The other was Michael Stone, whom the coaching staff felt would become a better defenseman than Franson.

In 59 games this season, before suffering a concussion in mid-February that could sideline him for the rest of the season, Franson has four goals and 17 points.

In 75 games, Stone has six goals and a career-high 36 points. Unfortunately for Stone, his season is also in jeopardy after he got his left leg tangled with Philadelphia Flyers wing Michael Raffl in the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 win at Gila River Arena. Stone had to be helped off the ice.

“It looked nasty,” coach Dave Tippett said after the game. “We’ll let (the medical staff) go about their business before I really comment on anything.”

The Coyotes are off on Sunday, but they are currently terming Stone’s injury as a lower-body injury. With seven games and two weeks left in the season, it’s possible his season is over and he is facing significant rehab.

“It’s always sad to see a guy go down like that,” defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “He’s having an unbelievable year so far so hopefully he’s fine.

“He’s playing big minutes for us. He’s playing PK, power play and all situations. We need him and he had been really good for us this year.

Coyotes GM Don Maloney said Saturday at the team’s town hall meeting that the team’s biggest need is for an impact defenseman. That will be something the team looks to address this summer, either in free agency or via the June NHL Draft.

On the flip side, the team is happy with the progress that Connor Murphy (23) and Stone (25) made this season.

“He’s just a good two-way defenseman,” Tippett added. “He just plays solid minutes for us. Since we decided to go with the two D on the power play, he’s played top power-play minutes.”

“He’s got a big shot, he uses his skills well, he’s willing to block shots, he finishes checks. He’s a good teammate, works hard, will do anything to help the team win. He’s put together a really good season.”

Stone will be a restricted free agent when the season ends and Maloney has said he is one of the team’s top priorities along with Murphy, Tobias Rieder and Louis Domingue.

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Flames at Coyotes

When: Monday, 7 p.m.

Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale

TV: FOX Sports Arizona

Radio: ESPN 620 AM

Season series: Arizona leads, 4-0

Probable goalies: Flames — Jonas Hiller. Coyotes — Mike Smith.

Injury report: Flames — G Karri Ramo (torn ACL) and D Ladislav Smid (upper body) are on IR. Dennis Wideman (triceps) is out for the season. F Josh Jooris (lower body) is day to day. Coyotes — D Michael Stone (left leg) is undetermined. G Anders Lindback (Achilles) and RW Joe Vitale (concussion symptoms) are out for the season.

Scouting the Flames: With a 4-1 loss to Blackhawks and Minnesota’s win at Colorado, the Flames were officially eliminated from postseason contention. Calgary has lost three straight games and is just one point form the bottom of the Western Conference standings. … Lost in the shuffle of Calgary’s disappointing season has been forward Johnny Gaudreau’s emergence as a superstar. Gaudreau has 28 goals and 73 points and is tied for fifth in the NHL in points.

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Stone’s season of growth may be cut short by injury