-- Lindy Ruff
will join elite company on Wednesday when he steps behind the bench to direct the Buffalo Sabres
for the 1,000th time in his career.
Ruff, currently the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, not only will become the 18th coach in NHL history to reach 1,000 games, but only the third in League history to reach that milestone with the same team. Only Billy Reay
(1,012 with Chicago) and Al Arbour
(1,500 with the New York Islanders
) have coached one team more often; Ruff will be the first man to coach 1,000 games in the NHL with only one team.
"The time has really flown by, so you don't really look at everything thinking you'd ever get to that number," Ruff told the media prior to his team facing off against the New Jersey Devils
at Prudential Center.
He's actually the 88th coach to lead the same professional major sport team for 1,000 games -- seven NBA coaches and 78 Major League Baseball managers have also accomplished the feat.
It's quite an accomplishment for Ruff, who has endured three ownership changes, a franchise declaring bankruptcy in 2003 and five seasons of missing the playoffs. Incredibly, since becoming the 15th coach in Sabres history in July 1997, there have been 155 coaching changes throughout the League.
"I think, all of a sudden, you're there," Ruff said. "In my case, you're there. What has broken it up has been the different ownership groups, the bankruptcy year … those times when things weren't always that stable."
Ruff admitted his phone hasn't stopped ringing since the start of the week as he approached his milestone game.
"I heard from quite a few people," he said. "Bill Torrey actually called me (Wednesday) from Florida, as did Chuck Fletcher. They're good friends from the early days (when Ruff was an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers
for four seasons). They reached out and said, 'Holy crap, how did you get to 1,000?
"I also got calls from former (Sabres) teammates Larry Playfair
and Mike Ramsey … a number of them called to congratulate me."
Ironically, Buffalo General Manger Darcy Regier
, who hired Ruff as coach, will be working his 1,000th game as the organization's GM on Wednesday.
Ruff, whose career record stands 487-370-142 through 12-plus seasons, has led the Sabres to a franchise-high seven postseason appearances, as well as two first-place finishes in the Northeast Division. He's been an Eastern Conference finalist three times and a Stanley Cup finalist once (1999) and needs 14 wins to surpass Toe Blake
(Montreal) for third-most victories with one team.
"That Stanley Cup run and those Eastern Conference finals were memorable," Ruff said. "The President's Trophy year was great, and back-to-back 50-plus win seasons were good offensive years. There's really not one particular season that stands out but anytime you go to the Stanley Cup Final, that's special."
New Jersey defenseman Henrik Tallinder
, who spent eight seasons in Buffalo under the tutelage of Ruff before signing with the Devils in the off-season, is an admirer of his former boss.
"The way the game changes almost every year, or even before the lockout, he's always been able to adjust," Tallinder told NHL.com. "Whatever style, whatever way the game is played, he gets it. He's been fairly successful too and that helps. Really, his ability to adapt to change is what was so great."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale