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STONE READY TO ROCK

Defenceman enjoying every moment of post-season experience

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

ANAHEIM - Michael Stone's gaze swept across the familiar visiting accommodations on event level at the Honda Center, taking in the activity, the increased media traffic.

He's been in this room before, of course. On any number of occasions.

Structurally everything is pretty much the same.

And yet …

"This time,'' he tells you with conviction, "it's different. This time it's playoffs.

"Anybody that tries to tell you playoffs aren't different …"

This why Stone came just short of executing a few cartwheels across the lawn upon receiving the call from GM Brad Treliving welcoming him into the Flames' fold on Feb. 20.

Eight weeks later, while his pals from the Arizona Coyotes arrange foursomes at Troon North or TPC Scottsdale, the Winnipegger who married a Calgary girl finds himself readying to hit off the first NHL playoff tee tonight.

"I'm having a blast,'' he says. "And it hasn't even started yet."

Over six pro seasons, Stone's timeline shows 324 regular-season starts as a Coyote, and only two in the post-season.

"Yeah, I played a couple games in 2012. But this is almost like starting. It's going to be a different experience, being a part of it, moreso than back then.

"This is what you grew up watching. This time of the year. I've been missing out on that. It's going to be a ton of fun."

Stone recalls that his dad worked as a sportswriter (of all things) in Sault Ste. Marie before deciding to pack up and move to Winnipeg, where Micheal joined the family.

"He had a lot of stuff. He followed the Greyhounds when Gretzky was there, which is pretty cool.

"I hate to say it now, but watching the Oilers do what they did in '05-06 sticks out for me. Mostly, though, I was a Red Wings fan in my younger days. I went to a Stanley Cup final game at The Joe, with my dad, the year before I was drafted.

"And I remember my brother and I used to watch an old VHS of the 1988 playoffs. That, 1988, would've been two years before I was born and four years before he was.

"Why '88? It was in our house. It was hockey. I don't remember how many times we slipped that thing in and watched it.

"We probably still have it. Somewhere."

As a sidekick to T.J. Brodie, Stone quickly established his niche among the Calgary blueline corps.

That 6-foot-3-inch frame and those 200 pounds are apt to come in awfully handy against ornery critters like Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler and such sizeable predators as Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rackell.

On their roster, the Ducks have 12 forwards listed at least six-feet tall and eight tipping the scales at 200 pounds or more.

So winning the blue-paint battle, both sets, is going to be essential in determining who advances along the playoff trail.

"Those are where the goals are going to be scored,'' agrees Stone. "You won't see too many tic-tac-toe, highlight-reel goals at playoff time."

Playoff time. Maybe the two sweetest words in the English language to someone who's felt for too long like the little kid with his nose pressed up against the toy-store window at Christmas.

"This is an emotional time,'' says Stone. "But you've got to try and stay even-keel. Not do too much because that's when you can hurt your team.

"Everybody needs to be at their best. That's what makes right now so special.

"You can't take any games off, any periods off, any shifts off.

"Everything is so magnified.

"It's different.

"It's one of a kind.

"It's great."

 

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