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Versatile, spirited Shore maturing into 'glue guy' Stars can rely on

In his third full NHL season, the do-it-all forward is starting to feel comfortable - and adding a veteran presence

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Devin Shore was discussing how trips to Toronto have changed for him when he revealed an interesting part of his NHL journey.

Asked if the visits to his hometown are still special, Shore said: "Yeah, definitely. Every time I come to Toronto it's a big deal. I've sat in the stands so many times and thought about playing here, that it's very special."

When asked if coming back presents distractions, he added:

"There are the same amount of distractions, but I'm better dealing with them now," Shore said. "I know my family and friends are important, and I'm excited to see them, but now I know that it's a road game that we need to win. I really do think, in that sense, it becomes just another game and you learn that's where to put your focus."

It was a pretty mature moment for the 24-year-old, who went out and scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs on Thursday night. It was the second straight game with a goal for Shore, and gives him eight points (two goals, six assists) in the past six games.

That's pretty impressive for a forward who tallied 32 points in 82 games last season.

"He's a very versatile forward," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "Very intelligent and a great teammate. He can play on the first line through the fourth line, and doesn't change his attitude, which is why he's a real good pro."

Video: DAL@TOR: Shore finishes tic-tac-toe to pad lead

Shore came up as a center at the University of Maine and tallied 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists) in 35 games his sophomore season, so he clearly has offensive ability. After jumping into the AHL, Shore was even better, tallying 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 23 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

He eventually bounced back from that rehab and made the NHL roster in 2016-17 -- playing all 82 games his rookie season and all 82 games last season. During that time, he did a lot of learning.

Last season, Shore tallied 32 points, but he also was a team-worst minus-30. He struggled at times with extra time on the ice (he was fifth among forwards at 15:26) and also with 1:50 a night on the power play.

That sent the wiry forward into the offseason with plenty of motivation. He worked hard to get stronger and faster and said the summer of hard work paid off.

"I do feel it when I'm out there," Shore said of his ability to use his additional strength. "I just feel like I can do more."

Shore has seen his time on ice drop more than a minute under Montgomery, and he has also been dropped down to the second power-play unit. But the move down the lineup seems to have increased his leadership role.

"He's just a smart hockey player. I like the way he possesses pucks, I like the way he has poise with the puck, and I think he's starting to get a lot of confidence," Montgomery said. "With that, he's skating harder and winning a lot more battles, and that's leading to more puck possession time and more scoring opportunities."

Video: DAL@MTL: Shore nets SHG for third point of the game

The recent scoring run and the return to Toronto are both reminders that Shore is maturing.

"He's fun to play with," said center Tyler Seguin. "He's making a lot of things happen."

Added center Jason Spezza: "He's really stepping up his play. You can see he's getting more confident."

Which is exactly what Shore is trying to do.

He wants to get to a place where every game is the same challenge and his performance is consistent across an entire season, no matter who he plays with. Because there's a very good chance Montgomery will be asking him to handle the distractions of being a versatile forward.

"He's a guy that I'm going to continue to move around, because I think he can get other players going," Montgomery said. "He has such great energy on the bench, he says the right things, he's kind of like a glue guy I can move anywhere."

A glue guy who understands how to focus on the importance on each game.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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