TORONTO – It hasn’t taken long for the Buffalo Sabres’ top line to find their stride.
The trio of Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Cody Hodgson were almost single-handedly responsible for the Sabres’ second win in as many nights.
Hodgson opened the scoring in the first period of Buffalo’s 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night, while Pominville scored the winner off a cross-ice pass from Vanek in the second.
“They’re really playing well together,” said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. “If they continue to get those chances they’re all good enough goal-scorers that their share will go in.
“Any time you look at chances and your top line is getting five or six a game there’s a good chance they’re going to get on the scoreboard.”
Hodgson’s goal was his second of the season. He had just three goals in 20 games with the Sabres last season after joining the team in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.
The line combined for nine points in their season-opening 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday with Vanek leading the way in scoring two goals and adding three assists.
The line’s early success may stem from the fact that both Vanek and Hodgson were actively playing during the lockout. While Vanek played with the Graz 99ers over in Austria, Hodgson had 19 points in 19 games with the Rochester Americans, the Sabres’ American Hockey League affiliate.
“Confidence helps a little bit too but maybe playing (has helped),” said Hodgson. “I’m playing with amazing players. That’s pretty much it. We’re always looking for plays and they’re really creative. They’ve got so much speed and talent and I just try to fit in with them as best as possible.”
The early talk from the Sabres’ locker-room is that having the players coming through in clutch situations is allowing Buffalo to win games it may have lost last season.
Buffalo lost 20 games by a single goal or in overtime in finishing in ninth place and just three points back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“At certain times last year we just couldn’t find a way to win a game on the road,” said Pominville, who had three assists against Philly.
“We were in a lot of tight games and didn’t find a way (to win). Even on Sunday night it was a tight game until the final five or six minutes left and the score didn’t really indicate (what) the game was and tonight was another good job by us.”