Sabres charge back into playoff race
Kirk Penton, QMI Agency
|Buffalo Sabres Tyler Ennis celebrates his goal against the Vancouver Canucks with teammate Mike Weber during their game in Vancouver on March 3, 2012. (REUTERS/Ben Nelms)
The Buffalo Sabres are heating up at the perfect time.
Lindy Ruff’s crew has won three consecutive road games, the latest being a 5-3 triumph over the league-leading Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night at Rogers Arena.
On Feb. 17 the Sabres were second last in the Eastern Conference, 10 points out of a playoff berth.
They are now just two points back of Winnipeg going into their titanic tilt on Monday night at MTS Centre, which will conclude an eight-game home stand for the Jets.
The Jets have won two of three meetings with the Sabres this season, the last being a 4-1 triumph at MTS Centre on Jan. 19, but head coach Claude Noel believes goaltender Ryan Miller has led Buffalo’s charge out of the doldrums.
“They look like a way better team,” Noel said. “It looks like (Miller) is in a good place, and it looks like he’s giving the team confidence.
“He looks way different for me now. He looks like he’s got confidence and so does their team.”
The Sabres shook things up at last week’s trade deadline, landing second-line centre Cody Hodgson in a trade with the Canucks.
Hodgson appeared in 52 games for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose last season under Noel, who sees plenty of improvement in the 22-year-old’s game.
“I think Cody sees himself as an NHL player and did see himself there last year, although he was in Manitoba a good portion of the year,” Noel said. “And this year is proving that he looks like he is an NHL player. He’s having a tremendous year, and he looks good. He really looks good out there.
“His skating doesn’t seem to be as evident as you might think it was, but he is what he is and you can tell he’s a thinker. He’s a cerebral player. He thinks he knows what he’s doing out there, and you can see that.
“You could see that when we had him with the Manitoba Moose. He can make plays. What I liked about him when he was here with us is he had tremendous drive to succeed. And he had it a lot in the offensive zone.”
Hodgson, who had 17 goals and 13 assists for the Moose last season, had a mercurial relationship with the Canucks organization, and in Vancouver on Friday and Saturday he refused to answer questions about whether he requested to be traded.
“Like I said to a couple guys beforehand, I really enjoyed my time here,” Hodgson told reporters.
“I got along well with the organization, the staff, the players. It’s tough to leave, but at the same time I know it’s a new home in Buffalo, and I’m looking forward to meeting the fans there and getting to know everyone there.”