TORONTO – Talk about puck luck. Sabres center Cody Hodgson has two goals in two games and hasn’t used his stick to score either one.
“Imagine what’s going to happen when he starts shooting,” coach Lindy Ruff joked about Hodgson, whose first-period tally gave the Sabres the lead for keeps in their 2-1 nailbiter over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night in Air Canada Centre.
Hodgson scored the insurance goal late in the third period of Sunday’s 5-2 win over Philadelphia, driving the net after Thomas Vanek was stopped on a breakaway and having the puck ricochet off his skate past Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. At 8:51 of the first period Monday, Hodgson headed down low for a deflection and took a Christian Ehrhoff slapshot off the body, but got the fortunate bounce past Ben Scrivens.
“I was just trying not to get hit in the head,” said a smiling Hodgson. “I turned away and it hit my chest but I’ll take it.”
As for shooting, Hodgson did manage seven shots Sunday but only his fluke beat Bryzgalov. Hodgson is quickly finding a comfort zone between the red-hot tandem of Vanek and Jason Pominville. After the first three days of play, Vanek leads the NHL with six points while Pominville has five, and the pair is tied for the league assist lead with four each.
“They’re pretty amazing players,” Hodgson said. “I just drive the net and let them do their thing. They’re always looking for plays. They’re real creative, have so much speed and talent and I’m just trying to fit in with them.”
Hodgson had just three goals in 20 games with the Sabres last year after coming East in the trade with Vancouver. He played his first six games for Buffalo without the benefit of a practice after the deal due to the team’s travel schedule and never seemed to catch up.
This year, he is ahead of the game after being able to play in Rochester during the lockout. He’s noticeably faster and playing with much more confidence.
“Playing with these guys, they make it really easy,” Hodgson said. “Confidence helps too but even the guys on our team who haven’t been playing have looked real solid.”
New enforcer John Scott had his first fight as a Sabre in the first period, tussling with Toronto’s Colton Orr but losing his balance and going to the ice late in the bout. Prior to the game, the 6-foot-8 Scott gushed about what Drew Stafford did Sunday by challenging Philadelphia scrapper Scott Hartnell.
“I think that’s what every team needs,” Scott said. “And with him being an assistant captain he’s setting an example for everything else. It was a perfect job there. You couldn’t ask for anything better. I was really amped up on the bench.”
Stafford’s locker in First Niagara Center is next to Scott’s and he joked after the game he told the Buffalo newcomer he’s not trying to take his job as the team’s top pugilist. Scott laughed at that Monday.
“It gives the bench a little jump,” Scott said. “For him to step up like that was huge for our group. It was a big bonding moment, really important for our first game.”
Hall of Fame broadcaster Rick Jeanneret missed his second straight game due to illness but team spokesman Mike Gilbert said it’s possible Jeanneret could be on the charter flight to Carolina on Wednesday afternoon for the game Thursday night against the Hurricanes.
Jeanneret was replaced for Sunday’s radio-only opener by WGR’s Paul Hamilton as NBC did the television broadcast. Kevin Sylvester replaced him on Monday’s MSG telecast working with analyst Rob Ray.
• The Leafs bludgeoned the Sabres on faceoffs by a 45-19 count – including 21-4 in the third period. Hodgson went just 5-17 on draws while Tyler Ennis was 2-12. The only Sabres with a winning record were Steve Ott (3-2) and rookie Mikhail Grigorenko (4-3).
• Vanek has 46 career points (22 goals, 24 assists) in 45 career games against Toronto.
• Grigorenko played exactly 13 minutes but had no shots on goal. He played 11:13 in the opener with two shots.
• Ott had a game-high seven hits as the Sabres had a 26-20 lead in that category. Buffalo also blocked 18 shots, including four by Jordan Leopold.
Ville Leino (leg) took the morning skate but missed his second straight game. Mike Weber and T.J. Brennan were healthy scratches. ... The Leafs opened the season as the second-youngest team in the NHL with an average age of 27.1. Only Columbus (26.9) is younger. ... There were nearly 100 media members in the press box for the Leafs’ home opener. The Toronto Sun and Toronto Star each had five reporters at the game. ... The Sabres are expected to take today off, practice Wednesday and then fly to Raleigh to prepare for Thursday’s game.