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It was a beautiful chance.

Cody Hodgson had a breakaway Thursday night in the third period as the Buffalo Sabres trailed the New York Rangers, 1-0.

But he couldn’t finish the play.

And then, as he turned toward the corner to attempt a second effort at regaining the puck, his stick got caught in skates, sending Hodgson to the penalty box for tripping.

The Rangers scored on the ensuing power play, giving them a 2-0 lead, something that against this woefully low-scoring team might as well be an insurmountable deficit.

“Cody goes down for a great opportunity, could tie it up and then all of a sudden, boom, we’re down 2-0,” interim coach Ted Nolan said. “I don’t think he meant to do it but those are those little mental adjustments we have to do. Not sometimes. We have to do it all the time. When you go through something like this you have to go through it together. You can’t expect some guys to start scoring that haven’t been scoring for us.”

But Hodgson knows that he is expected to score. He has just one goal in the last nine games and although he generated five shots Thursday night on the top line with Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford, he knows he had better start producing.

“I think we’re doing a better job of getting in spots and getting in places where we can get chances,” Hodgson said. “That’s something we’ve had to work on and work to get in those positions. So that’s a positive but at the same time once we get those chances we need to score. That’s our job. That’s what we’re paid to do.”

So what’s keeping the puck out of the net?

“A lot of times it’s just a little hesitation, whether it’s looking for an extra pass or looking to take extra seconds and then a stick’s in the lane, a body’s in the lane or a goalie gets across,” Hodgson said. “I think it’s just getting more familiar with each other. As we get going we’re a lot better than we started. The chances are there. That’s a good thing. Eventually if you get enough chances you’re going to score.”

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Defenseman Jamie McBain returned to the Sabres’ lineup Thursday after sitting the last four games as a healthy scratch.

He was rewarded with the most ice time he’s received all season – 23:50. In his 23 shifts he took three shots and blocked two.

“I really liked his game and when I talked to him about coming into the lineup, he asked he why he was out,” Nolan said. “There was no specific reason as to why. It was just one of those situations where I’m trying to find a who’s who on this team. He was just one of those guys that had the least amount of problems at the beginning. We had to fix the other guys.”

McBain, often dubbed a power-play specialist, played on both Sabres man advantages in the game, but impressed Nolan more with his five-on-five play.

“We don’t want to hear about his power-play time because our power play hasn’t been going very well,” Nolan said. “He’s good on the offensive but we have to have an overall good game for him,” Nolan said. “Last night I thought he had a great game for us.”

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The Sabres shook Mikhail Grigorenko’s hand and wished him luck. The forward would not be making the trip to Montreal, instead staying behind so he can catch his Sunday flight from Toronto to Russia to prepare for the World Junior Championships.

And frankly, expectations for his performance are high.

“He has to go down there and be one of the best players,” Nolan said. “He can’t just go down there and be a player. He has to be one of the best players. Once you dominate one level it gets you ready for the next level. You go through the history of all those young stars, they all have to do it.”

Grigorenko will join Nikita Zadorov on the Russian team while J.T. Compher was named to the preliminary list for Team USA.

Add another Sabres prospect to the list as Gustav Possler will play for Sweden. He was the Sabres’ fifth-round pick last June.

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The Sabres had some food for thought on the wipe board in their dressing room.

The space usually reserved for opposing team’s line charts and defensive pairings instead contained this quote from Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday:

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing but in rising every time we fall.”

email: amoritz@buffnews.com