The chemistry was noticeable when the line hit the ice for the first time.
Matt Moulson, playing in his first game as a Buffalo Sabre, joined the top line with Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis. The trio had pop and breathed some life into the Sabres offense. Moulson scored twice and Ennis picked up his first two assists of the season.
And much of it came from an energy and eagerness to play that eventually won over even the weary crowd at First Niagara Center in Monday’s 4-3 loss to Dallas.
“I just think everyone was feeding off Matt’s energy,” Hodgson said after the Sabres’ practice Tuesday. “He had a ton of energy. He was great on the forecheck, picking up loose pucks and making good passes and obviously his shot is awesome too.
“He’s fun to play with. You can’t replace Thomas Vanek as your captain and leader and stuff like that but we can all come together and play well. As a line, I thought Tyler and Matt and I worked really well together.”
When Moulson arrived at First Niagara Center Monday morning, he saw his place in the linechart and knew he was paired up with quality players.
“Those two guys are easy to play with,” Moulson said. “You see your name on a line with those two guys, you know they’re great players but you always wonder if you’ll have chemistry and mesh well together and I think we did last night. We’ll only get better as we get to know each other more. It should be a lot of fun.
“I think they’re both extremely smart players with good speed. They both did a great job getting the pucks through the neutral zone. I like to have it in my hands as little as possible unless it’s around the net, so I think that fits well with Enzo and Cody.”
While sometimes a change of scenery helps players when they’re traded, the same can be said for new linemates. Ennis seemed to enjoy a bit of a extra jump and played one of his better games. The 24-year-old moved to the right wing, and much like Hodgson said, Ennis found playing with Moulson just plain fun.
“Right off the bat it felt like we had good chemistry,” Ennis said. “We were holding on to pucks, making plays and hopefully we continue this chemistry and continue to score goals.
“He’s really smart. He knows what play to make before it happens. In front of the net, he’s unreal. As long as me and Cody can keep firing him the puck I think he’s going to have a good chance to put it in.”
Sabres coach Ron Rolston noted that Ennis was playing with more energy, moving his feet, getting the puck to the tape on his stick and making plays.
The chemistry from the get-go didn’t surprise Rolston all that much.
“The components are all there,” Rolston said. “Matt’s a player who gets to the net real well and he can also make a play whether it’s out of our zone, through the neutral zone or in the offensive zone. Then the other guys can make plays, especially with Matt being at the net a lot, or liking to be at the net. It just gives you the right mix of guys.”
The line hopes to build on that energy and momentum as the Sabres prepare to play the Rangers in New York on Thursday.
Moulson now leads the team in scoring with 11 points (eight goals, three assists). Hodgson picked up an assist last night for 10 points on the season (four goals, six assists) while Ennis’ two assists pair with his one goal.
“There’s lots to build off that last game,” Hodgson said. “We ended up short but there’s definitely some things we can build on.”