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Stewart excited by return to playoffs

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

The plan was for Chicago Wolves forward Anthony Stewart to act like he’d been there before.

So many times he scored an overtime playoff goal in his mind, and in each case he envisioned himself playing it cool.

Real life doesn’t always follow the script, as Stewart found out when he potted the winner at the 12:21 mark of the second overtime to give the Wolves a 4-3 win against Texas in Game 2 of the West Division finals.

"I was hopping around pretty crazy," he said. "I think I did a long jump for about 10 feet. Then I got checked by a couple of guys, a couple of face washes. I was too tired to fight back."

That made Stewart’s goal timely because he estimated at that point he had maybe a handful of shifts left in his legs, tops. If he needed to go longer, though, it’s likely he would have been fueled through sheer enjoyment.

Stewart, 25, is skating on springtime ice rarely grooved by him. From 2001-02 up until this season, he had played in 12 total playoff games in juniors and pros. So far this postseason, he’s dressed for 10 such contests.

"This is an exciting time for me. It’s something I’ve never been a part of," he said. "You hear about the guts and the glory. It’s pretty intense. I plan on going a couple more rounds and seeing where this takes me."

Stewart has done his part with six goals, half the amount he scored in 77 regular-season games. Part of that output is a result of the way playoff hockey is tailored for his 6-foot-2, 239-pound body.

Another element is how Stewart’s wrecking-ball game has found a motivation.

Stewart played all of last season with the Florida Panthers and admits that fire was sometimes hard to spark in his return to the AHL in 2009-10. That was especially true at the end of the regular season, when Stewart went goal-less in his last 19 games.

"You can be as rah-rah as you like. I think subconsciously you are a little upset, not at the situation, but at yourself," he said. "Part of the maturation process is, whether you are in the AHL or NHL, to play the same way. I think I’ve figured it out now. We’re re-invigorated and definitely excited. Every day you have a little more bounce in your step."

Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com. Read today’s complete column here.