DALLAS -- Mark Stone returned for the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Monday.

The forward missed the last 26 games of the regular season with a lacerated spleen.

“I’m excited,” Stone said after the morning skate. “I’m going to play tonight. I feel confident that I’m healthy enough and ready to go, so why hold back? Might as well get in there and play.”

Stone will play on a line with forward Chandler Stephenson and center Tomas Hertl. He has played often with Stephenson over the past five-plus seasons but never with Hertl, whom the Golden Knights acquired in a trade with the San Jose Sharks on March 8. Hertl has played only six games for Vegas.

“The question mark will be Hertl,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “How do they read off each other? Et cetera. They’re two smart players. I think they’ll figure it out. How long will that take? I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer to that, because they haven’t played together, and Tomas is just finding his way into the lineup and sorting some things out how we play. At least Mark has that in his back pocket.”

Stone said he has watched Hertl and played against him, and Hertl seems like someone who fits his game well.

“I know we didn’t play any games together, but hopefully we build some chemistry right away, because we know our team will need it,” Hertl said.

Stone, the Golden Knights captain, was leading them with 53 points (16 goals, 37 assists) when he sustained the injury in a 5-3 loss to the Nashville Predators on Feb. 20.

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“The first couple weeks were real tough,” Stone said. “You can’t really do anything physical. You’re kind of just sitting around waiting for it to heal. Then it gets even harder, because you actually start to feel better relatively quickly, but you look at the scans, and you’re nowhere close to healthy.”

It was different than last season, when Stone missed the last 39 regular-season games to recover from back surgery and returned for the opener of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 22 games, third on the Golden Knights. Vegas won the Cup.

“I think last year I had more of a distinct timeline,” Stone said. “This year, I wasn’t super confident that I’d be standing here today ready to go. The timeline was a lot more -- not delicate, but I guess, longer. I had some people tell me it was eight weeks, some people tell me it was six months. It was just a wait-and-see, see how the scans go.

“Obviously fortunate to be able to get those scans as frequently as I can. I think last week, last scan I did, I felt like I was moving in the right direction, getting close to playing, and the last scan kind of confirmed it, and now I’m ready to go.”

Cassidy said Stone’s minutes would not be limited in Game 1.

“I was told he’s cleared and ready to go,” Cassidy said. “We will obviously monitor it, because he’s missed some time. But listen, he plays on the power play, kills penalties. We’re not going to put a governor on him per se.

“The eye test will us where his conditioning level’s at. … He can control [his shift length]. But there are no restrictions going in. Could we put some on midgame? Again, that’ll be something we decide as we go.”

Stone struggled in his first playoff game last season, a 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. He might need to get up to speed again.

“Ultimately I haven’t played in quite some time,” Stone said. “I’m probably not going to be … I’d be pretty happy if I was at my best tonight, but we’ll see how I feel. I’ll have to play a smart game.”