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‘Yotes Notes: Stone Wants to Contribute More Offense This Season

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – Now that Michael Stone has evolved into a reliable and trusted NHL defenseman, he and the Coyotes are expecting him to take the next step in 2015-16.

Stone was just one of four NHL defensemen to block 150-plus shots and deliver 150-plus hits last season. Offensively, he set career-highs in shots (144) and assists (15), but he scored just three goals after notching eight the year before in 70 games. 

“I’d like to be able to contribute more offensively,” Stone said after Tuesday’s practice. “That’s something that I’m looking at doing, and just growing as a player. If I can keep improving my game, that’s all really I can ask for.”

Stone will be paired with All-Star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to start the season. It’s a partnership that began after the trade deadline last season and one Stone embraces.

“For me, it’s a confidence builder,” Stone said. “Playing with him you know he’s always doing something to make the team better and there’s not too many shifts where he has a tough shift. As long as I can keep going with his level of play I hope to stick with him for a good duration.”

Head Coach Dave Tippett likely will give them a long audition together.

“They played well together near the end of last year,” Tippett said. “So far it’s been pretty good. They only played a couple games together in preseason but we’ll see how it goes.”

He added, “Mike’s got a great shot from the point… if we can have traffic in front of the net he’s got a chance to score.” 

► With training camp complete, the Coyotes shifted into game preparation mode on Tuesday at Gila River Arena.

Tippett and the coaching staff will take a look at forward lines over the next few days with the season opener set for Friday night at Los Angeles.

The first line at Tuesday’s practice featured center Antoine Vermette with speedy wingers Max Domi and Mikkel Boedker.

“I wouldn't say they’re set in stone,” Tippett said of the lines. “We’re going to scrimmage a little tomorrow so we’ll get a better read on it then.”

Earlier this preseason, Tippett said he spends lots and lots of time contemplating the lines.
“I think about it in the morning, I think about it in afternoon… If I knew exact ones it would be easy,” he said. “Then I wouldn't have to stay awake all night.”

► Vermette returned to practice on Tuesday after missing Sunday’s practice so he could fly to Chicago for a ceremony at which he and his Blackhawks teammates from last season were officially presented their Stanley Cup rings.

“It was a very classy move by this organization to allow me to be part of the ceremony,” Vermette said of the Coyotes.

Vermette said he may bring his ring to Gila River Arena one day but only to show a few Coyotes players who have asked him if they could see it.

“It’s a great souvenir but you won’t see me walking around wearing it,” Vermette said. “I'm not going to brag about it.”

► The Canadian Hockey League named prospect Conor Garland of the Moncton Wildcats its Player of the Week for the week ending Oct. 4. Garland, whom Arizona selected 123rd overall at this year’s NHL Draft, notched four goals and three assists in two games with a plus-minus rating of plus-3.
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