|Photo Credit: Bill Wippert|
The Buffalo Sabres lost 305 man games due to injury last season with 11 players missing the final game of the regular season. For awhile, it seemed like a different player was injured every game.
In the season’s penultimate game alone, the Sabres lost three forwards, a defenseman and a goaltender. In some cases, emergency recalls had to be made for emergency recalls.
Buffalo acquired two players before the NHL Trade Deadline that Sabres fans may not have been able to get a good look at because of injuries.
The Sabres picked up Chris Stewart as part of the trade that sent Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues. He dressed in only five games for the Sabres this past season. Torrey Mitchell joined the squad on March 5 from the Minnesota Wild and was forced to miss 12 games due to injury.
Mitchell found his niche on the Sabres penalty kill. Nearly 19 percent of his ice time in his nine games with the team came while down a man. When he was on the ice, the Sabres allowed only one power-play goal against. In games in which Mitchell played, the Sabres went 26-for-29 (.897 percent) on the penalty kill.
He led the team with 2:57 of shorthanded ice time per game.
In the Buffalo’s game against Montreal on March 25, he logged 5:42 of ice time while shorthanded. While he finished that game, he sustained an injury during it and was out of the lineup until April 8.
In his first game back, the 29-year-old forward racked up 5:11 of time on the kill against Detroit. He followed that up with two nights later with 4:28 of penalty kill time against the Rangers.
Stewart, 26, will enter his sixth NHL season in the fall. He’s scored 28 goals twice in his career and recorded a career-high 64 points in 2009-10.
He first sustained the injury in his second game with the team on March 6 in Tampa Bay. Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback came out to play the puck and
He was obviously disappointed at being forced to miss so much time down the stretch due to injury.
“It’s about getting healthy now and having a good offseason and coming back strong next year,” he said. “It sucks. You go from the Olympic break to your year being over. You obviously want to play this game. I tried to push it to come back and I was feeling good for a couple weeks. It sucks that I ended the way on the way it did, but that’s in the past now and all we can do now is worry about the future.”
Both Stewart and Mitchell are under contract through next season. Stewart said he sees a lot of pieces on the way that could push the Sabres to become a very good team rather quickly.
A lot can change over the course of the summer and he’s also aware of the possibility that he could be on the move again.
“I don’t think it’s going to take that long to turn it around here. Obviously you’re subject to all those trade rumors and all the stuff like that, but that’s out of my control,” Stewart said. “Like I’ve said before, as long as I’m a Buffalo Sabre, I’m just going to worry about helping this team win hockey games and that’s all that’s on my mind.”
The possibility of switching teams again was on his mind when he was acquired by the Sabres on Feb. 28. He admits that it took him a few periods to settle in with the team but quickly found chemistry with Hodgson and Marcus Foligno.
In that game against the Lightning, he was driving hard to the net and generated quite a few scoring chances. That’s the style of play he’d like to bring consistently next season.
“I thought the game before was obviously a little rough, not knowing whether you’re going to be here or not and playing with new linemates. I think coming into that last period in Dallas and that whole game in Tampa, we were picking up chemistry, playing with Foligno and [Hodgson],” he said. “I thought that was kind of bottled up of what I bring to the table for sure.”
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