DDB: Stone seizing his chance
GLENDALE – Defenseman Michael Stone is being given an opportunity to show what he can do in the NHL – at a critical time in the season no less – and he is seizing it.
With each shift, Stone, whom the Coyotes selected with the 69th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, appears more comfortable and confident on the ice.
On Saturday, Stone scored his first NHL goal when he ripped a shot from the right point past San Jose Sharks goalie Anttii Niemi at 18:50 of the second period to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead. They won 3-0.
Stone’s tally came less than five minutes after he assisted on Mikkel Boedker’s goal, and it gave him the first multi-point game of his young NHL career.
“It’s a really good feeling to score the goal and get the win,” Stone told me after the game “I wouldn’t have it any other way. Obviously those are two crucial points that we needed to have (in the standings).”
Stone knows how to score goals; he notched 62 for Calgary in four seasons in the Western Hockey League. Playing NHL-caliber defense will be the key to his success. After eight games, it’s so far so good.
“Mike Stone is a great story,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said after Saturday night’s win. “He’s been in the organization (for) a couple years and he’s learned his trade in the minors, and he’s come up through a system that I think should be the way a lot of young players do. They learn down there and when they come up here they get thrown in a situation where they can face the challenge head on. That’s what he’s doing. He’s gotten better every game he’s played.”
Stone reminds Tippett of a younger version of defenseman Adrian Aucoin because he’s a smart player who can play a lot of different parts of the game and do what is right for the team. That’s high praise for the 21-year-old from Winnipeg.
“He’s close to being a regular in the NHL,” Tippett said.
• Mike Smith was back in mid-season form on Saturday night and posted a 42-save shutout. It was his fifth of the season and the 16th of his NHL career.
Some readers may have noticed that Smith debuted his second Wile E. Coyotes mask on Saturday, if only for a short time.
“It just didn’t feel right so I didn’t want that to be in my mind at all so I got rid of it,” Smith said with a smile after asked why he changed back to the old mask early in the game. “It needs a few sweats before I can get it into a game again.”
Smith’s second mask has a few subtle tweaks from the original design on his current mask. For instance, on Smith’s new mask you will see that Wile E. Coyote has dropped the old-school leather pads and is wearing newer gear. Also, if you look closely at the front of Smith’s second mask you will notice Wile E. Coyote has finally gotten his revenge on the Roadrunner.
• Defenseman Derek Morris has rejoined the team after taking a leave of absence last month because of a family illness.
Morris skated with teammates at Saturday’s morning skate and he’ll be at the morning skate on Monday, too.
“We need to see him in some practices before we can determine his conditioning level,” General Manager Don Maloney told me. “Once we feel he is game ready, the coaches will decide when he plays.”
Morris, who last played on Feb. 11, is six games shy of playing in his 1,000th NHL game.
• Raffi Torres scored his 12th goal of the season on Saturday night on his 83rd shot of the season. Do the math and you’ll discover that computes into a team-high 14.5 shooting percentage. Not bad for a player the Coyotes acquired primatily for his grit and toughness.
• And finally, if you’re on Twitter today make sure you send Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette, aka @BizNasty2point0, a birthday wish. He turns 27 today.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.
For information on upcoming Phoenix Coyotes games, please visit http://coyotes.nhl.com