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Drew Stafford had the perfect opportunity to score on a one-time shot. Only he missed.

Same story different day for Stafford who has been getting opportunities but failing to cash in.

That is until the third period Thursday when his wrap-around with 5:41 left to play provided the game-winning goal for the Buffalo Sabres in a 4-2 decision over the Bruins.

“I had a big wide open net and I just missed the net,” Stafford said. “I’ve had a lot of chances and a lot of shots that just haven’t been going in. It’s one thing going back to the bench if you’re going to be thinking about that and dwelling on that. Next time you get a chance you might miss because you’re thinking of the last one.”

But Stafford has learned to move on to the next shift, the next play, the next opportunity. Keep putting in the hard work, he believed, and eventually the puck would find its way into the net.

Not that it was easy to keep the positive attitude, particularly with the media corps asking about his lack of offensive production.

“I have to answer questions about it a lot from you guys, so it’s kinda hard not to think about it but you have to do your best to keep your head clear because that stuff can kill you mentally,” Stafford said. “It’s tough when you’re doing everything else and the offensive side thing hasn’t really been going there. It hasn’t been going for anybody, but myself, obviously, I’m counted on to provide and it’s coming. It’s slowly coming.

“When you’re out on the ice more times than not if you’re just playing with a clear head and an open heart, good things usually happen.”

It was just the third goal this year for Stafford and his first in 17 games. He last scored at San Jose on Nov. 5.

“Drew’s been a true professional since I’ve been here,” said interim coach Ted Nolan. “He’s worked. He’s competing. He’s just been off a little wee bit on the shots. Tonight to see him get that goal was hopefully a step that he’ll get some more for us as we move forward.”

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Cody Hodgson left the game with 5:44 left in the first after he blocked a shot off his wrist by Torey Krug. He didn’t return to the game.

“Cody got banged up a little bit. An upper-body injury I guess,” Nolan said. “It could be a little while but we’ll get the doctor’s report after.”

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Shawn Thornton will have his day with National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman today.

The Boston Bruins forward is appealing his 15-game suspension handed down by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety after he attacked and injured Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7. Orpik left that game on a stretcher and suffered a concussion.

Thornton did not make the trip with the Bruins to Buffalo and was a Bruins scratch along with Daniel Paille.

It is the first suspension for Thornton, who is in his seventh season with the Bruins. Four of those seasons he racked up more than 100 penalty minutes and has been known as a stand-up tough guy.

But he crossed the line on Dec. 7 when he took offense to a hit Orpik put on Loui Eriksson, which resulted in a concussion for Eriksson. During a stoppage of play midway through the first, Thornton grabbed Orpik from behind, tripped him to the ice and punched him twice in the head.

Thornton will forfeit $84,615.45 in salary. If the suspension remains six or more games after the appeal to Bettman, Thornton can appeal to an independent arbitrator.

The only player to appeal to Bettman was Patrick Kaleta when the Buffalo Sabre received a 10-game suspension. Bettman upheld the suspension and Kaleta chose not to appeal to the independent arbitrator.

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John Scott was a healthy scratch for the second straight game along with defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. ... The Sabres have now killed off their last 14 penalties as Boston went 0-for-2 on the power play. The last team to score a power play goal against the Sabres was the New York Rangers on Dec. 5. ... Ryan Miller is 26-9-7 against the Bruins in his career.

email: amoritz@buffnews.com