OPINION: Casey Mittelstadt almost ready to play after surgery

Buffalo got outworked and blew another two-goal lead in a loss to Dallas
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Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Buffalo Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt returned to practice on Thursday and has a good chance to return to action within the next few games. Thursday night was the 15th game he has missed due to surgery.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard, especially the first couple of days after," the center admitted after Thursday's morning skate. "But the faster and the harder you work, the faster you’re going to get back. So for me, that was my goal.”

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Mittelstadt has always been a fast healer, as he’s always had an injury derail his season. In his rookie year, he missed five games. The next season, he played 67 games between Buffalo and the Rochester Americans. Last year, he missed 15 games, and this season he’s missed 35 games.

In every case, he’s been able to come back sooner than expected. Mittelstadt attributes that to the way he's changed his way of life.

“I’ve done a better job of taking care of myself," he said. "Watching what I put into my body and what I do away from the rink, and I think those things add up. If you do it for one day, it doesn’t mean much. But if you do it for 30, 40 days, eventually you’re going to have some sort of advantage there.”

Even Mittelstadt has trouble talking about if it’s the same injury that sidelined him after the first game of the season.

“It’s the same area, but kind of a different spot," Mittelstadt said. "It ended up being a little different. I’m not sure if it was caused by the first one, but I knew the risks when I was going back to play.”

One thing that the surgery has done is given Mittelstadt confidence that the injury is gone. He believes he now has peace of mind.

“It’s huge, and I know I’m going to get back to 100% here,” Mittelstadt said.

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As far as Thursday’s game goes, it was what we see almost every night.

Buffalo led 2-0 and 3-1, blew a third period lead for the eighth time in 16 games, and ended up losing to the Dallas Stars, 5-4.

The Sabres added a new wrinkle to the loss, though, as they gave up four power play goals. As a matter of fact, Buffalo has given up seven power play goals in their last four games.

It doesn’t help that their best penalty killer and most rugged forward, Zemgus Girgensons, is out due to injury.

Head coach Don Granato spoke after the game about losing net-front battles and battles along the wall to a bigger and stronger team. The Stars had 47 shots on Aaron Dell, and all this stuff I’m mentioning is just getting worse, not better.

Injuries and COVID-19 are a key factor, but I’m still wondering if the Sabres are developing talented players that can’t come through when it really matters.

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The good part of this game is Jack Quinn scored his first NHL goal and had two points on the night. Dylan Cozens netted his 10th goal of the season, while Rasmus Dahlin scored, what may have been, the prettiest goal of the season.

Those are the good things that we’re seeing from the young players. The fact they’re a big part of a team that gives up two-goal leads almost every time they get them, and are on a team where poor effort and being outworked is talked about way too much.

The Sabres have too many players out due to injuries, but that has nothing to do with players giving poor effort and not being willing to battle. That’s something that Granato must address immediately, because it’s unacceptable.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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