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UP TO SPEED

Back from a conditioning stint with the Stockton Heat, Michael Stone is ready to return after missing time with a blood clot

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

That first shift felt as if it went on a while.

In fact, Michael Stone confessed, it seemed to run longer than Blu-Ray viewings of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Back-to-back-to-back. Extended editions.

"My first shift ran … a little long,'' reckoned Stone of his comeback game Mar. 6 at Pechanga Arena in San Diego. "I was kinda struggling. I was out there for like a minute 40.

"I got stuck out there.

"After that, I was fine. We were good to go."

Stone's last appearance had been way back on Nov. 11, for the Flames at San Jose versus the Sharks, before a blood clot was found in an arm after he complained of dizziness and threw his season - and possibly his career - into the realm of the unknown.

"It's been hard because the situation I was in I couldn't really see a finish line until it kinda just appeared in front of me," said Stone, last off the ice (but not complaining) from Tuesday's morning skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"But I never felt like I was never going to play again. I only felt: When am I going to play again?

"We did the course of treatment the way it was supposed to be done.

"Being here by yourself and the team's on the road for those long stretches playing good hockey, you want to be a part of that.

"On the plus side I got some good family time at home, did some things that I wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to do.

"That's the way I had to look at it."

Video: "I got some good minutes, played some decent hockey"

Deemed ready to return to action, the 28-year-old Stone was dispatched to AHL Stockton and tried to get back up to speed with three games for the Heat before being recalled Monday.

"I think he's in a real good place now," said coach Bill Peters. "He's healthy again. Any concerns about his ailment are over. He went down, played real well in Stockton. It was huge for him to get some game action, and gave our American League team a big boost, getting an NHL defenceman to come down and play 20 minutes a night.

"Now it's a situation where we can ramp up his intensity here because there had been restrictions on him. We'll take those restrictions off and really push him. He'll put the work in and when his opportunity comes, he'll be ready."

Stone said he adopted a business-like attitude to recovery.

"You know what it was like for me: I had a short season, then I had another off-season and then I got to play again. It was kinda that time frame. The way I went about it, I essentially did an off-season-type program.

"So that's how I felt going into (the first) game. It's a fresh start. It was that way because I was on a different team and some faces that I'd never met before."

The stint in Stockton accomplished what it was meant to.

"Timing and more battles. Stuff like that," said Stone, asked about what he had to re-adjust to within the competitive framework.

"It's a fast game, like here."

The addition of Oscar Fantenberg from L.A. at the trade deadline and Stone's return give the Flames nine defenceman on hand, as well as a getting-back-to-peak-form Jusso Valimaki in Stockton.

So, plenty of options.

"Make the most of it when you get in there," said Stone.

"I sat and watched the games. I get fired up just like anybody else would. Who wouldn't want to be on the ice?

"I feel good.

"Three games was good for me. I think I got some good minutes, played some decent hockey and I feel ready to go.

"When I get the opportunity the adrenalin will be there and I'll be ready to go.

"I understand where we're at at this point in the season. I understand it's playoff hockey and I'm prepared for that."

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