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Mitchell makes most of his minutes

John Mitchell #34 of the New York Rangers

John Mitchell #34 of the New York Rangers follows through on his second period goal against the Nashville Predators. (Jan. 17, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

WASHINGTON -- John Mitchell isn't planning on his annual late May trip to fish for walleye with his dad and some pals on a remote lake in Ontario. The Rangers could still be in the playoffs.

"My dad said he'll have to take a satellite radio to listen to the games," Mitchell said Tuesday.

The season has come full circle for Mitchell. In his first game after a call-up from the Connecticut Whale on Nov. 25, he set up the game-winner against the Capitals.

On Monday, in Game 5 against Washington, he won the draw that led to Marc Staal's overtime goal.

"I worked hard to give myself an opportunity," said Mitchell, 27, a 2003 draft pick who played in 159 games in Toronto. He was acquired for a seventh-round pick Feb. 28, 2011 and after arriving from Hartford, he was 5-11-16 in 63 games for the Rangers.

Mitchell has filled his fourth-line role very well recently. After no shots in nine playoff games, Mitchell fired nine on net in the next three. "He's flat-out an NHL player," linemate Mike Rupp said. "We're creating chances. He knows the game, he's smart."

Coach John Tortorella summed up Mitchell's season as "inconsistent . . . he's been strong on the puck, a guy who can take faceoffs, get some time on the power play. He makes a big play [Monday] night on the faceoff, and has found his way a little bit in getting pucks to the net. For him to get more ice time, he has to play better."

Mitchell understands. "If you want ice time, you've got to produce," he said. "Me and Rupper and whoever else has been on the fourth line with us, we don't get a ton of minutes, so you've got to make every shift count. Keep the puck down low, get some bangs."

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