Sens hop­ing Stone can help an­chor club’s play­off run

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY LISA WAL­LACE THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

When it mat­ters most, Mark Stone finds a way to elevate his game.

The Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors for­ward seems to thrive later in the sea­son when games be­come more im­por­tant and teams start fo­cus­ing on mak­ing their run to the play­offs. Stone scored the win­ning goal in Thurs­day night’s 3-2 vic­tory over Dal­las and has three goals and two as­sists since the all-star break.

“The game tight­ens up a bit and maybe that’s a strength for me,’’ he said. ``Some­times at the start of the year it’s not my type of game so when they get down to the nitty-gritty I can maybe get a lit­tle bit more of it.’’

While the 24-year-old plays well all sea­son, he seems to shine fol­low­ing the all-star game.

Over the past three sea­sons, he’s av­er­aged 0.68 points per game prior the all-star con­test (38 goals, 56 as­sists in 138 games). But in 68 games af­ter the all-star break, he’s av­er­ag­ing 1.04 points per con­test (30 goals, 41 as­sists).

Stone, for one, was sur­prised to learn of the in­crease.

“For three years I’ve tried to be as con­sis­tent as pos­si­ble,’’ he said. “As a younger guy, you try to grow in the league and find ways to im­prove your game and I’m still look­ing to do that.

“I want to be re­lied upon, not only on the ice, but off it, and kind of be some­one younger guys can come to.’’

Stone is also adept at strip­ping the puck, hav­ing reg­is­tered a league-high 70 take­aways.

“It’s an­tic­i­pa­tion and read­ing the play,’’ said Stone. “The way the game is go­ing it’s very phys­i­cal and many play­ers are very un­ex­pect­ing now.

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