BROSSARD, QUEBEC –
The Buffalo Sabres returned to practice Sunday afternoon after a cross-continental flight on Saturday that took them from Vancouver to Montreal.
Cody Hodgson, a healthy scratch against the Canucks on Friday, skated Sunday at the Bell Sports Complex on a line with Brian Flynn and Drew Stafford. Hodgson said he found out after warmups that he would not play and Buffalo dressed seven defensemen.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after practice that Hodgson would be back in the lineup for Buffalo’s next game, which is against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday.
“We have to get messages across to some people. You try different ways to get it across,” Nolan said. “Cody’s one of those that, you know, he has some skill and some ability to put the puck in the net.
“But unfortunately, it’s not working. We’ve got to find a way to get it out of him. Maybe by sitting him out and getting him mad – get him angry – maybe that’ll work.”
Hodgson has two goals and five assists in 48 games this season. He was also a healthy scratch on Dec. 11.
“It just comes back to what I can do on the ice,” Hodgson said. “I still think I have confidence in my abilities to do what I need to do on the ice, making plays, getting shots on net, generating offense. It just comes back to the ability to do that and I still think I have it.”
Lighting a fire under a Sabres player who isn’t performing up to expectations by making him serve as a healthy scratch has proven to work already this season with one player in particular.
The coaching staff sat Chris Stewart out on Nov. 9 against the Los Angeles Kings. At the time he had three goals and an assist in 27 games. In the 21 games he’s played since the benching, he has six goals and eight assists.
The 6-foot-2, 231-pound forward has six points (4+2) in his past five games with all four goals coming on the man advantage. He’s been on the first power-play unit with Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons. For the game in Vancouver, Nolan decided to keep them together for 5-on-5 play as well.
“I’m playing with two pretty good players right now. I’m just going to simplify and create as much room as I can for those guys and use my big body to my advantage,” Stewart said.
Nolan thinks the chat they had back in November has paid off.
“We had one of those discussions with him earlier,” Nolan said. "You just go out and assume you’re going to get numbers and play on certain positions because of your status. Everybody in this League has to be accountable to their own play and Stewart was one of those guys that’s play was slipping.
“So we had a nice discussion. He didn’t like it. I didn’t like doing it, but it worked and now he seems to be back on track. He seems to be playing the way he’s capable of playing, which is great to see.”
Even with Stewart producing, the team has struggled to earn points. The Sabres are currently in a stretch in which they’ve lost 14 games in a row in regulation.
“It’s a team-first mentality but the better I play, it’s only going to help the team,” Stewart said. “I’ve just got to worry about my game and try to bring it every night.”
The Sabres and Canadiens will play at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night at Bell Centre with the Tops Gamenight pregame show beginning at 7 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
80 Chris Stewart – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
26 Matt Moulson – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
19 Cody Hodgson – 65 Brian Flynn – 21 Drew Stafford
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 37 Matt Ellis – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 41 Andrej Meszaros
61 Andre Benoit – 24 Tyson Strachan
1 Jhonas Enroth
31 Matt Hackett