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Stützle calls himself out amid career year: 'I've been playing terribly'

Tim Stutzle Tim Stutzle - The Canadian Press

Tim Stützle may be enjoying the best season of his young career, but the Ottawa Senators forward believes he's not playing to his full potential.

Stützle called himself out after Monday's 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers, in which he scored his 36th goal of the campaign.

"To be honest, I've been playing terribly," Stützle said. "It's definitely good [to score], but in the end, I have to be way better. … I feel like every time I get the puck I don't really move my legs enough, and they've been gapping up pretty good, their [defencemen].

"To be honest, I've just got to get back to stopping and starting and trying to make plays and hold onto pucks. I've been losing too many battles."

The 21-year-old snapped a four-game goal drought in Monday's win, bringing his season total to 36 goals and 82 points in 70 games. 

Selected third overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, Stützle has improved in each of his three seasons, posting 12 goals and 29 points in 53 games as a rookie before breaking out with 22 goals and 58 points in 79 games last season.

He signed an eight-year, $66.8 million extension prior to this season, which will kick in when his entry-level contract expires on July 1. 

Following Monday's victory, the Senators sit five points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with one more game played. The Buffalo Sabres and Panthers still sit between the Senators and Penguins in the playoff race.

The Senators will continue their current homestand on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers before closing out the week with games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets over the weekend.