MONTREAL — Mark Stone has gone from “very questionable” to return to the series to a game-time decision in the span of 24 hours.
It’s a playoff miracle!
All joking aside, we’ve witnessed some pretty impressive gamesmanship in the opening days of this Montreal-Ottawa matchup. Much of it has centred around Stone and the failed attempts by the Senators to get P.K.Subban suspended for slashing him on the right wrist during Game 1.
First the team revealed Stone suffered a microfracture and ligament damage on Thursday morning and then GM Bryan Murray pled his case to reporters. He cast doubt on any likelihood the 22-year-old would be able to suit up in Game 2.
Yet, when we arrived at Bell Centre on Friday morning, Stone joined his teammates on the ice for a brief skate and coach Dave Cameron hinted he would be in: “If he’s not in jeopardy and real fragile, I think you’ll see him in the game.”
This is all to be expected in the playoffs, of course. It’s part of what makes them so entertaining.
Thursday’s impromptu media session with Murray was vintage stuff from a veteran hockey man, who was clearly trying to get under the skin of his opponent and squeeze out any kind of advantage he can.
Both teams were expecting the referees to be vigilant during Friday’s game. In the aftermath of the series-opening 4-3 loss, Cameron hinted that his team would take justice into their own hands if Subban wasn’t suspended.
However, the coach was singing a much different tune after receiving a warning from the league.
“That’s the fine line you walk now, right?” said Cameron. “Because one incident’s got it all hyped up and you make a comment it just gets blown out of proportion The first thing I asked my team today is: ‘How do you think the refereeing is going to be tonight?’ The analogy I used is after what happened it’s going to be like breaking into a police station and trying to steal something.
“You ain’t getting away with it.”
Losing Stone would be a huge blow for the Senators. He was one of the top-scoring NHL players in the second half of the season, putting up 35 points during Ottawa’s amazing 31-game stretch to end the schedule.
“What he’s done the last two months of the season can’t be replaced,” said teammate Bobby Ryan.
Stone spent part of the off-day picking Ryan’s brain about his experience of playing through a broken finger earlier this season. The winger went through a two-month routine of having his hand frozen before every game — a treatment presumably that could be used on Stone’s wrist.
“He had a lot of questions and I just tried to answer them,” said Ryan. “I kind of beat around the bush a little bit. I didn’t want to tell him it sucks when (the freezing) comes down at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Should he play, you’d have to think he’ll be limited in his effectiveness. The most dangerous part of Stone’s game is a wicked shot and that will obviously be affected by a wrist injury.
In the event he can’t go, veteran Chris Neil is the most likely replacement. However, he hasn’t suited up for a game since Feb. 14 because of a broken thumb on his left hand.
Asked if that would limit his ability to fight in Game 2, Neil broke into a wide grin: “I’ve still got a right.”
If the Sens were feeling tight ahead of Friday’s game, it certainly didn’t show. Cameron got some chuckles out of reporters with the opening of his press conference.
“Good afternoon. The Dow was down 260 points, something to do with bubble Chinese stocks. That’s all I know.”
Play on, gents.
We’re all enjoying the show.