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Torrey's time

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – The Canadiens will likely be welcoming Torrey Mitchell back to the lineup on Tuesday night.

Mitchell, who suffered a lower-body injury on November 19 against the Arizona Coyotes, hasn’t seen game action since. After missing the last 11 games, it’s no surprise that the 30-year-old Greenfield Park native is eager to return to active duty against one of his former clubs – the San Jose Sharks.

“I’m ready to play. It will be up to the coaches, but I feel like I’m ready to go,” offered Mitchell, who was selected 126th overall by the Sharks back in 2004 and spent the first four seasons of his NHL career plying his trade in Northern California. “I was out a little bit longer than I expected. I thought that I’d be out for two weeks, but it took over three. It’s all behind me now, though. I’m not really worried about anything. I just followed the doctor’s orders and I took things one step at a time.”

At practice on Monday, Mitchell centered the Canadiens’ fourth line flanked by young guns Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto. For his part, Charles Hudon appeared to be the odd man out. If Mitchell does get the call to suit up, he knows that it might take some time to really get back in the swing of things again, particularly at this point in the season.

“It will be a little tougher to get back, because when you’re out three weeks this far into the year, you have to find your rhythm again. Injuries are a part of the game, though. Everyone deals with them, but I hope this will be the only one I have to deal with this year,” shared Mitchell, who put up five goals, 10 points and a plus-5 differential in 20 games during the 2015-16 campaign before being forced to spend some time on the sidelines. “I had a good practice, and I’m excited to get back to playing again.”

As are Mitchell’s teammates, who fully appreciate the unique skill-set a player like Mitchell brings to the table every single night.

“He’s a very versatile player for us. He’s really helped out our team a lot this year when he’s been in the lineup because you could put him out there in any situation. You’re not worried about who he’s playing against. He can eat up some minutes by going against their top guys,” praised captain Max Pacioretty, who, like Mitchell, is among the Canadiens’ most-utilized penalty-killing forwards so far this season. “Having that luxury of him coming back should help us out a lot. I’m excited that we get to see him in the lineup.”

Head coach Michel Therrien shared similar thoughts on Monday, offering up his thoughts on just how big a piece of the puzzle Mitchell has proven to be since coming on board at the trade deadline last year.

“He’s an experienced guy. He’s intense. Torrey was big part of our success at the start of the season, and we’re glad he’s back. He kills penalties, plays against tough lines and he’s good at faceoffs,” mentioned Therrien, referencing Mitchell’s stellar 49.4 percent success rate winning draws on the year. “I’m going to sit down with him after the morning skate on Tuesday to see how he’s feeling. If everything goes as planned, he’ll be there [against the Sharks].”

Needless to say, it never hurts to have another regular back in the fold – especially when you’re going up against a San Jose Sharks squad that has a reputation for playing a hard-nosed brand of hockey at both ends of the rink.

“They’re always tough to play against because it’s a man’s game. San Jose has always played us strong. They’ve got a couple of big, physical defensemen. A guy like [Brent] Burns is very tough to play against, in my opinion. He’s big, strong and fast,” concluded Pacioretty, who will also go up against the likes of star forwards Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward on Tuesday night. “It’s going to be a lot like we played last game [against Ottawa], where we have to play simple and get pucks deep. Like I said, it’s a man’s game.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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