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Lindy Ruff making emotional return to Buffalo as coach of Dallas Stars

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Lindy Ruff went 571-432-78-84 in 15 seasons behind the Buffalo Sabres' bench. Since joining the Dallas Stars in the offseason, he's led the team to a 4-5-1 mark. (Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

Lindy Ruff went 571-432-78-84 in 15 seasons behind the Buffalo Sabres’ bench. (Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

By Michael Blinn

Lindy Ruff is no stranger to Buffalo, but when he arrives at HSBC Arena on Monday, he’ll certainly be in a new place.

Ruff was the Sabres’ coach for 15 seasons until he was fired after a 6-10-1 start to lockout-shortened 2013, after which he was brought in to helm the Dallas Stars. His career in Buffalo surely had its highs and lows: Ruff guided the Sabres to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup Final appearance (a controversial loss to Dallas in 1999), but his teams also finished out of the playoffs from 2001 to ’04, 2007 to ’09, and in 2012 and ’13. At the time of his firing, he was the longest-tenured coach in all of professional sports, and his 571 wins with Buffalo are the second most for a coach with just one team. Ruff is also one of only four coaches who have ever been behind the bench with a single franchise for more than 1,000 games.

Now, he’ll get a view from the visitor’s side in his first visit to Buffalo since being relieved of his duties.

“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it,” Ruff said after the Stars’ shootout loss to Winnipeg on Saturday.

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  • Published On Oct 28, 2013
  • Dallas Stars in for a Ruff ride with their new coach

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    Lindy Ruff is expected to become the new coach of the Dallas Stars

    Lindy Ruff is a respected hockey mind, but is he the right man for the re-branded Stars? (Gary Wiepert/AP)

    By Allan Muir

    Jim Lites was never very good at keeping secrets.

    Less than 24 hours after the Dallas Stars president let it slip that Lindy Ruff was coming to town, the team made his hiring official this morning.

    From the press release:

    Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the team has hired Lindy Ruff as the 22nd head coach in franchise history and the seventh in Dallas Stars history.

    “One of the trademarks of successful organizations is their ability to have continuity and stability for an extended period of time,” said Nill. “It is clear from Lindy’s record, and from our own conversations, that we have found the right person to provide that stability and lead this club to the next level. His steady hand and experience will prove invaluable in returning our team as a top-tier contender in the NHL.”

    Stability has been in short supply around the Stars, a team that’s been searching for an identity since the end of the Ken Hitchcock era in 2002. Since then, Dallas has gone through four coaches and four general managers (although Brett Hull and Les Jackson served concurrently) while trying to figure out what exactly Stars hockey is supposed to be.

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  • Published On Jun 20, 2013
  • Sabres’ turnaround could be historic

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    Playoff push: After being tagged as a soft team for failing to respond to an earlier hit in Boston, the Sabres and goalie Ryan Miller have fought back and are overcoming long odds. (Mark Goldman/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    With their victory over the Capitals on Tuesday night, the Buffalo Sabres leapfrogged Washington into eighth place in the Eastern Conference. This event should not be minimized because it is amazingly rare for NHL clubs that have been out of a playoff spot by double digits in February to actually make the playoffs by season’s end. Obviously, this isn’t a fait accompli yet, but the fact that the Sabres were able to make up this much ground has them heading into historic territory.

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  • Published On Mar 28, 2012
  • Buffalo’s dark season

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    Ville Leino (23), who was given a fat six-year contract and has produced only three goals and eight assists, is one of the posterboys for a Sabres season filled with deep slumps, injuries and big disappointment. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    One of the NHL’s biggest mysteries this season, the collapse of the Buffalo Sabres, could result in some big changes. It doesn’t appear as if the jobs of GM Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff are in jeopardy, but some players may soon be on the move.

    That was the strong hit delivered by Sabres President Ted Black during  All-Star Weekend when he told John Vogl of The Buffalo News that while he supported the work of the team’s hockey department, “Our commitment is to winning, not to any particular group of players that are labeled as a core. Take that for what it’s worth.”

    We’ll take that to mean that the Sabres will be sellers at, or prior to, the trade deadline.

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  • Published On Jan 31, 2012
  • Hecht’s head, Glendale’s debt, the best and the worst

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    Jochen Hecht of the Sabres is experiencing scary concussion symptoms that have alarmed his team. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    When we spoke with Ken Dryden for our post earlier this week on concussions, he proposed an annual conference on head injuries that would involve every aspect of the hockey community. The first item on his ideal agenda would be to hear from those who have suffered concussions and give these players a chance to “tell their stories, very simply. This is what it’s like, this is the impact, these are the consequences, these are the stakes.”  That would certainly open the proceedings with an emotional wallop.

    That was on our mind when we came across an item by John Vogl in The Buffalo News about center Jochen Hecht of the Sabres being concussed in Saturday’s game against the Blues, but the symptoms not emerging until Tuesday at practice.

    “He’s not good,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said after Tuesday’s game in New Jersey. “Wasn’t feeling bad [Monday]. He took a hit from [T.J.] Oshie in St. Louis, kind of an elbow — and came off [Tuesday] and he was a mess. He couldn’t focus. Emotionally, he was really unstable. He’s in a tough place right now. We’re worried. … To come off and be the way he was tells you that there’s something wrong.”

    That’s scary stuff. This is Hecht’s second concussion of the season and third in less than a year. As we know, each one makes the victim more vulnerable in the future and potentially makes the reaction more severe.  We wish him well. As Dryden said, “This is an ongoing thing. It’s not something that’s random bad luck. This is tomorrow unless you start finding a way to make a better tomorrow.”

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  • Published On Jan 26, 2012
  • Coaches at work: Flames friction, rematch in Buffalo, Bylsmaspeak and more

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    Philosophical differences between coach Brent Sutter and captain Jarome Iginla do not bode well for the Flames. (Colleen De Neve/ZUMAPRESS.com)

    By Stu Hackel

    Coaches are hired to be fired, as the saying goes. But what happens in between cements the perception we have of the guys who stand behind the bench in the NHL, the ones who prepare their teams in long hours of meetings and video study. It’s a hard job, especially when fans, the media and even the players believe they know better than the coach what a team should be doing.

    That seems to be the situation in which Flames coach Brent Sutter finds himself vis a vis his captain Jarome Iginla. Sutter believes his team won’t be the consistent force it can be unless everyone buys into his scheme, and that Calgary will continue to play as a bunch of individuals and not realize the potential of its collective talents. Specifically, he wants Iginla — the 15-year NHL veteran who has topped the 1,000 point plateau and is only 11 goals away from 500 — to concentrate on his defensive game.

    Right now, the 34-year-old Iginla is minus-12, with only five goals and four assists — not vintage Iggy.

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  • Published On Nov 23, 2011
  • Shanahan’s Lucic ruling rings hollow to many

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    Many fans outside Boston don’t buy Milan Lucic’s claim that he couldn’t avoid colliding with Ryan Miller. (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    If the Brendan Shanahan era was the dawning of a new day in NHL player safety, some clouds obscured the sun on Monday when he found no reason to take further action against the Bruins’ Milan Lucic, who freight-trained Sabres goalie Ryan Miller on Saturday.

    It was a decision that felt like a product of the old Colin Campbell era.

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  • Published On Nov 15, 2011
  • Lucic disciplinary decision may prove pivotal

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    Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was angry about his team’s tepid response to goaltender Ryan Miller being run by Boston’s Milan Lucic, but real fireworks may be in store if the NHL doesn’t clamp down. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    Milan Lucic gets hauled in front of the NHL’s justice system Monday afternoon after the big, tough Boston winger ran Sabres goalie Ryan Miller on Saturday night, a play that some considered the turning point in the Bruins’ 6-2 dismantling of Buffalo. Miller is out indefinitely with a concussion after Lucic plowed into him like the 6:46 from Haverhill to North Station.

    It might be an overstatement to say that what Brendan Shanahan and company decide on Lucic will be a defining moment in this new era of player discipline; in fact, it may end up being more of a defining moment for the Sabres. But Department of Player Safety rules may help clarify what is and what is not considered “a hockey play” in the current scheme.

    UPDATE: The NHL announced Monday afternoon Lucic would face no disciplinary action, citing a lack of intent on his part.

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  • Published On Nov 14, 2011
  • Pegula wants to make Buffalo hockey heaven

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    Sabres great Gilbert Perreault (left) greeted new owner Terry Pegula, who has spent much of his life rooting for the team he promises to build into a Stanley Cup-winner. (AP Photo)

    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL Board of Governors today approved the sale of the Sabres to Terry Pegula, and besides it being good news for the fans of that club, it also might be good news for all hockey fans. Why? Because Terry Pegula is a such a big hockey fan that he sniffed back tears of joy at his introductory press conference as he recalled his roots as a Sabres fan in 1975 and saw members of that team in attendance, especially the one he called, “my hero”: Gilbert Perreault.

    Perhaps this notion is just a pipe dream, but as a hockey dad who attended Sabres games for 18 years, listened to the audio of their televised games over long distance phone lines in the days before the Center Ice package, and isn’t embarrassed to cry in public over his love of the game, maybe, just maybe, Pegula will speak at NHL owners meetings as a fan as much as a businessman.

    In a letter to Sabres fans on the start page of the team’s website, Pegula writes, “From 1980-1998, I was sitting next to you in your seat at both the Memorial Auditorium and the HSBC Arena as a season ticket holder. As a longtime Sabres fan, I have followed all the great players who represented our city. Along with each player and fan, we have all shared a vision…to have the Buffalo Sabres name inscribed on the Stanley Cup.”

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  • Published On Feb 22, 2011
  • Too much Miller Time for the Sabres?

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    Backup goalie Patrick Lalime (left) has not given the Sabres much confidence that he can spell Ryan Miller, so Buffalo’s workhorse has been carrying a mighty load. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Ryan Miller has played 31 consecutive games for the Sabres and that’s a lot for any goalie. In those 31, he’s 18-9-3, but has a 2.85 goals-against average and a sub par .909 save percentage. And after Miller surrendered seven goals to the Islanders on Sunday, one naturally wonders if Lindy Ruff, justifiably regarded as one of the game’s better coaches, has worn out the star netminder.

    Miller’s workhorse streak will end tonight, as the Sabres have recalled Jhonas Enroth from Portland in the AHL to face the Canadiens. The 22-year-old Enroth played earlier this season with mixed results while Miller sat out five games due to a hip injury. He won a pair of postgame skills competitions, but his best performance might have been in a 1-0 loss to Penguins on Nov. 10 – his final game before heading back to Portland.  He hasn’t exactly been burning up the AHL with his 2.83 GAA (ranked 30th in the league), but his respectable  .910 save percentage may be a bit more revealing because he faces nearly 31 shots per outing.

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  • Published On Feb 15, 2011


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