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Lindy Ruff would like to see Cody Hodgson turn into James Neal

Buffalo Sabres v Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG, CANADA - MARCH 5: Cody Hodgson #19 of the Buffalo Sabres looks on while head coach Lindy Ruff talks to the players on the bench during a game against the Winnipeg Jets in NHL action at the MTS Centre on March 5, 2012 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

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The Sabres acquisition of Cody Hodgson hasn’t exactly lived up to the high hopes fans in Buffalo had when it went down at the deadline.

Hodgson is still without a point and spent practice yesterday working on the fourth line. With such an inauspicious debut, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is reminded of another talented forward who was traded last year and struggled to settle in right away as John Vogl of The Buffalo News shares.

“It’ll come,” Ruff said. “I’m not concerned. I think you look at it, and it’s obviously disappointing. But it will come. It’s probably no different than when James Neal went to Pittsburgh last year. There was a ‘it’s not working out,’ then all of a sudden it works out.”

The key differences between Neal and Hodgson here are that Neal showed up in Pittsburgh last year and essentially didn’t have a center to work with. This year he’s riding shotgun with Evgeni Malkin and they’ve been dynamic.

If Hodgson can find a high-scoring winger to work with and form chemistry with, he’ll be golden. Buffalo has the guys to do it in Thomas Vanek or Jason Pominville, but for now it looks like the Sabres want to get Hodgson rolling on a line that isn’t their first scoring unit. If it works out this way, hey it’s a huge win for Buffalo. Getting a 21-year-old center right as he’s about to break out is a good thing.