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Sabres’ Hodgson finds a hop in his step

He spent the better part of the last few weeks skating and watching games on television.

It was a forced break from his team, but Cody Hodgson made the most of his time on injured reserve.

The forward has returned to the Buffalo Sabres with a new spark and offensive zest that has helped anchor an improved scoring attack for the club as it heads into tonight’s matchup against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. The Blue Jackets are on a franchise-best eight-game winning streak.

Hodgson has tallied points in five of the six games he’s played since returning to the lineup after a hand injury sidelined him for eight games. He has three goals and six assists in that span and has been generating numerous other opportunities.

Part of the freshness comes from the excitement of being back around his teammates. Part comes from the approach he took during his time on injured reserve, where he had an opportunity to work on both his physical conditioning and his mental approach.

Hodgson continued to work out both on his own and with Sabres power skating coach Dawn Braid. Coach Ted Nolan said the skating workouts seemed to help Hodgson.

“He looks a little better,” Nolan said. “He looks a little crisper. He looks fresher and the result is he’s having better results.

“That’s the way you foresee Cody playing for us is that explosiveness. He’s a powerful skater. It’s just doing it in a longer duration and blowing by people.”

Having that strength and explosiveness off his skating stride helped Hodgson score the Sabres’ first goal Thursday in the Sabres’ 5-3 loss to Carolina. He took a puck that bounced over a defenseman’s stick, took a few strides, then blasted the puck into the net.

For Hodgson, the difference between scoring that goal now and missing the opportunity earlier in the season is a bit of relaxation and recognition.

In his first 33 games he had eight goals and 11 assists. And the increased scoring production after the eight-day layoff was bolstered by hockey binge watching during his time away.

“It wasn’t just our own team,” he said. “Sitting at home when the team’s on the road you can watch two to three different games at night. …

“Watching some of the other guys playing around the league to see what works kind of helped my game.”

One thing he learned was that he had more time with the puck than he was giving himself credit for.

“I know it looks easy when you’re in the press box and watching it on TV,” Hodson said. “It looks like everything happens so slow but when you’re on the ice it kind of gets sped up in your mind. … You don’t have to shoot right away; you can walk in a little bit and take your time.”


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