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Sabres notebook: Mitchell and Stewart seize the spotlight

When last Torrey Mitchell scored a goal, it was Nov. 22.

When last he scored twice in one game, it was 2011 and he was playing with the San Jose Sharks.

But good things happen, even for defensive-minded forwards, when they crash the net and play with a sense of urgency.

Mitchell netted two goals – one putting home a beautiful pass from Matt Moulson and the other lifting in a backhand from Brian Gionta – as the Buffalo Sabres earned a 6-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks in First Niagara Center on Thursday night.

It might have been his last game in Buffalo as a member of the Sabres. Mitchell is one of five unrestricted free agents who are the focal point of deal discussions as Monday’s NHL trade deadline looms.

But there’s little use in worrying about the rumor mill.

Best instead to focus on the game and wait to see what happens, just like everyone else.

“Whatever is going to happen is out of our control,” said Chris Stewart, another Sabre who could be in another city by Monday night. “It’s part of the business. We’re just as antsy as you are to see what happens.”

Stewart had a goal and an assist, connecting on a breakaway in the third period on a shot that squirted through Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack.

It wasn’t picture perfect, but it was a goal – his third in two games against the Canucks this season. Stewart has had a number of breakaway chances over the last two weeks as the power forward has returned to his strengths.

“I’m just trusting my anticipation,” Stewart said. “Throughout my career I’ve always been able to snatch up breakaways and really read the game. I think just trusting my instincts and knowing that you’re a good player who can make that read. I’ve been getting those bounces lately.”

Mitchell isn’t one to fill the score sheet with offensive stats, but with leading scorers Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons out with injury, he embraced the opportunity to step up.

“I hadn’t scored in a long time and it feels good to help the team out offensively,” Mitchell said. “I’m sort of a defensive forward and a checker. That’s been my role, but obviously having our two leading scorers out it’s good to help out at the end of the rink now.”

“Torrey Mitchell, for the last number of games he’s been playing tremendous for us,” coach Ted Nolan said. “Sometimes you don’t get the credit for blocking shots and playing defensive as well as you play offensively. Torrey for the last number of games has been playing a strong two-way game for us and it’s nice to see him score a couple.”

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Michal Neuvirth never saw himself as a diver, but he’s going to think about his reactions a bit more closely from now on.

The Sabres goaltender was fined $2,000 by the NHL Wednesday for repeated diving/embellishment.

“I would like to focus on my game, but it’s definitely going to be on the back of my mind,” Neuvirth said. “It’s not like I would do it on purpose. It’s just part of the game. You don’t think about it.

“It happened, and you’ve got to take it as a lesson and move forward.”

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For once, the Sabres got some good news. Girgensons, who took a slap shot off his right ankle Tuesday, is not done for the season as previously suspected.

“We will see him before the end of the season, so it’s bad but not as bad as we thought,” Nolan said. “I haven’t got a time yet.”

Nolan said Girgensons may have a fractured bone but added it could still heal in two weeks.

Ennis also left Tuesday’s victory in Columbus with a lower-body injury. He’s day-to-day after missing Thursday’s game.

“We’ll see how his injury mends, and hopefully next game he’ll be ready,” Nolan said.

Mike Weber returned early from an upper-body injury suffered last Friday against Ottawa. He was supposed to miss up to four weeks but instead missed only two games.

“The way I felt that night leaving the game I was a little bit worried, but our trainers are top notch, our doctors are top notch,” Weber said. “They’ve always been able to piece me back together with some glue and tape, so it’s been able to hold so far.”

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The Sabres used three of Rochester’s top five scorers – left wing Johan Larsson, center Phil Varone and right wing Zac Dalpe – on a line together after Varone and Dalpe were called up to replace Ennis and Girgensons. Varone leads the Amerks in scoring with 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists) in 52 games. Dalpe leads Rochester with 16 goals, including nine in the past 13 games.

“I thought they were real good,” Nolan said. “Varone skated. Larsson, that’s one of the best games I’ve seen from him and Dalpe did better than last time he was up.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com and jvogl@buffnews.com

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