After a taste of home cooking, Stuetzle aims to return to where he left off

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When the world gives you lemons, make lemonade.

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Or as teenage Ottawa Senators Tim Stuetzle, come home to celebrate the season with the family.

The COVID-induced NHL shutdown in late December put an end to the momentum Stuetzle had built up earlier in the month, but he has not remained inactive.

Instead, he returned home to Germany for a few days to catch up with his loved ones.

“I was able to go back to my family and my grandparents,” Stuetzle said Wednesday after the team’s practice at the Canadian Tire Center. “I was really, really happy to see them. I haven’t spent Christmas with them for two years.

Last year around this time, of course, Stuetzle was putting on a show at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Alberta, helping his upstart, COVID-riddled German team to an impressive performance.

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Stuetzle scored five goals and received five assists in five games and was named to the tournament’s all-star team.

Stuetzle was also all-in as a fan of the current tournament, cheering on his German underdog team, along with several of his former teammates.

Germany and Canada were scheduled to play on Wednesday before the International Ice Hockey Federation cut off the entire tournament.

So much for all the benevolent ribs between Stuetzle and his Canadian teammates in training Wednesday morning.

Now it’s back to NHL business, as Stuetzle aims to get back to where he left off before the break, regaining his legs and hitting the net after a slow start.

Stuetzle opened the season scoreless in his first 13 games and he has scored just one goal in his first 22 games, struggling with his team until the end of November.

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It may not be a coincidence, he appeared more at ease over the past month after being moved to the center from the left wing which he had called home since joining to the Senators to start the 2020-21 season.

He has four goals and three assists in his last nine games, a streak in which the Senators have posted a 5-3-1 record.

Stuetzle has been more present in the middle, in large part because the puck is on his stick more often, which gives him more opportunities to dictate the game. He wins more head-to-head battles with defensemen in because of its speed.

“He looks so much more confident, especially in his own zone with the puck,” Senators coach DJ Smith said. “Sometimes he gives up the puck and loses it, but that’s part of being young in this league. He looks so much more confident in skating. He is doing well with his attack and defense. He’s going to be a very good player in this league for a long time. You know (with younger players) at some point the light comes on and they start to feel a lot more confident.

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It’s fascinating to look back on the 2020 draft, when Stuetzle was selected third.

First overall selection, Alexis Lafrienière has yet to take off with the New York Rangers, scoring just six goals and two assists in 30 games this season. Second overall, Quinton Byfield of the Los Angeles Kings has missed most of the season with an ankle injury, scoring zero in four games with Ontario Reign, the Kings’ branch in the American Hockey League. .

To date, Detroit Red Wings’ fourth overall pick Lucas Raymond (10 goals, 18 assists in 30 games) has produced the most this season.

Stuetzle, who turns 20 on January 15, is not yet a finished product.

As Smith pointed out, he’s prone to turnovers. Learning how to consistently win face-offs in the NHL is also a time consuming process and Stuetzle has won only 33.3% of his draws to date. In some crucial situations in the defensive zone, Smith may choose not to use Stuetzle.

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“The last time I played (center) was three years ago,” said Stuetzle, noting that there is an adjustment due to the smaller ice surface in the NHL. “I’m improving on faceoffs.”

Among regular centers, Josh Norris leads the Senators with a 49.9% success rate and Stuetzle relies on him for advice and support.

“Everyone is trying to help me as much as they can, especially Josh because he’s been playing there for two years now (in the NHL),” Stuetzle said. “And he’s been playing it all his life. He’s a very good faceoff guy. I also want to get into attack and defense (draws).

The way Stuetzle sees it, the mood and attitude in the locker room is upbeat, a far cry from what the Senators were like after the November struggles.

“Everyone came back (from Christmas) positive and with a lot of confidence, just happy to be able to come back and train with (everything else) closed,” he said. “We have a lot of fun as a group.”

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Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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