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NHL Insider

Rolston's task to 'jump-start' Sabres into contention

Thursday, 02.21.2013 / 3:33 PM / NHL Insider

Neil Acharya - Correspondent

Ron Rolston makes his NHL coaching debut Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he has a tough task ahead of him.

Not only is he charged with turning around the Buffalo Sabres, he has to get through to a team that is currently in a state of shock.

"My job is to jump-start this team and do it in any way we can," Rolston said after hitting the ice with the Sabres for the first time since being hired as their coach Wednesday.

Not only does Rolston have to deal with a team that's reeling emotionally, but he also sees a team that hasn't been willing to work as hard as it must in order to win games.

"From what I saw, it was more of a lot of shortcuts," Rolston said. "Lot of rest in shifts. The things you just have to eliminate if you're going to be a good hockey team. Most importantly, it's just getting back to that, it's getting back to work, getting back to eliminating shortcuts from your game because there's not a lot of time."

Rolston getting test, but Sabres could look elsewhere

Wednesday, 02.20.2013 / 8:04 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Ron Rolston will get at least 31 games to prove that he should be the next full-time coach of the Buffalo Sabres. Several other potential candidates will be watching.

Rolston, 46, got the call-up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League (Buffalo's top minor-league affiliate) on Wednesday to become the interim replacement for longtime Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. He'll have his hands full with a team that is currently at least seven points behind every other team in the Northeast Division and sitting in 13th place in the Eastern Conference.

The Sabres are coming off a dismal 2-1 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets, one that general manager Darcy Regier called "the tipping point" in the decision to fire Ruff.

Meanwhile, Rolston is leaving a team behind in Rochester that is seventh in the AHL's Western Conference with a 27-18-3 record. He guided the Americans to a playoff berth following a 36-26-14 season as a rookie coach in the AHL last season.

Ron Rolston earns chance at NHL coaching job

Wednesday, 02.20.2013 / 7:59 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

When Buffalo Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston meets his new players Thursday, he'll see a familiar face in forward Nathan Gerbe. And when he looks out at the ice from behind the bench at Air Canada Centre on Thursday night, he'll see another familiar face in Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel.

Those are just two of the numerous American players Rolston played a role in developing during his time as a coach with the United States National Team Development Program.

Rolston spent seven seasons as a coach with the USNTDP, alternating years with the program's under-17 and under-18 teams.

Ruff spent successful quarter-century with Sabres

Wednesday, 02.20.2013 / 7:44 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

For the first time since the end of the 1996-97 season, someone other than Lindy Ruff will be coaching the Buffalo Sabres when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Ruff, the longest-tenured coach in the NHL and a fixture in Buffalo for 25 years as a player and bench boss, was fired Wednesday, one day after a 2-1 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets dropped the Sabres to 6-10-1, leaving them 13th in the Eastern Conference and in danger of missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season.

Ruff's 15 seasons in Buffalo yielded a trip to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, a Presidents' Trophy in 2006-07, and back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and '07.

With a 571-432-162 record, Ruff was the winningest coach in franchise history; only Al Arbour, who won 740 games with the New York Islanders, has more NHL victories with one team. takes a closer look at Ruff's time in Buffalo as a player and coach:

Aug. 9, 1979 -- The Buffalo Sabres choose Ruff, a highly regarded defenseman with the Lethbridge Broncos of the Western Hockey League, in the second round (No. 32) of the NHL Draft.

Rivalry Night doubleheader gets numerical look

Wednesday, 02.20.2013 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

What could be better than a Philadelphia-Pittsburgh game on Wednesday Night Rivalry presented by Coors Light? How about a second game -- one between a pair of Western Conference rivals.

That's the case this week, with the Flyers visiting Pittsburgh and the St. Louis Blues in Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche. Both games can be seen on the NBC Sports Network in the United States and TSN2 in Canada.

The Flyers and Penguins have been battling for bragging rights in Pennsylvania since they entered the NHL in 1967. The Flyers ended Pittsburgh's season last spring by eliminating the Penguins in six games; Pittsburgh got a measure of revenge on opening day by beating the Flyers 3-1 in Philadelphia.

Blues battle travel delay before facing Sharks

Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 6:14 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- It was supposed to be the end of a successful three-game trip for the St. Louis Blues.

The trip ended with a 4-3 shootout win at the Vancouver Canucks, and they were supposed to board a plane home, with an estimated arrival of 4 p.m. local time Monday.

That didn't quite go according to plan, however.

Instead, the Blues didn't leave Vancouver until after midnight Pacific Standard Time, and finally landed in St. Louis at 6:30 a.m. CT on Tuesday. The 14-hour delay was because of mechanical issues with their charter plane. So rather than get a day's rest then take the ice for the morning skate ahead of a game Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2), the Blues were at home ... and in bed.

Blues right wing Chris Stewart, asked if he experienced anything quite like this, wasted little time thinking about an answer.

"No," he said. "That's as close to the American [Hockey] League travel you're going to get there as far as rest.

Goaltending, scoring could have Leafs in contention

Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 1:05 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

With only one-third of the Toronto Maple Leafs' season in the books, it's still too early to start making plans for playoff hockey at Air Canada Centre.

The discussion phase, however, has begun as the Maple Leafs appear to be charting a course to the postseason, which would be their first participation in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in nine years.

Toronto has won six of its past seven games to become one of five teams in the NHL with at least 10 wins so far this season. The Maple Leafs' 20 points put them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for first in the Northeast Division, heading into their game Tuesday in Tampa, Fla.

This isn't the first time these Maple Leafs have started a season well. Toronto was 10-5-1 after 16 games last season, but there were obvious flaws and eventually they were exposed as non-playoff contenders.

Maybe these aren't the same ol' Leafs anymore. Here are five reasons why:

Numbers tell the story of Blackhawks' blistering start

Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 1:00 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

With the 2012-13 season having passed the quarter mark, two numbers jump off the page when you look at the Chicago Blackhawks.

One is 15, for the number of games they've played.

The other is 12, for the number of wins they have.

The Blackhawks' 12-0-3 start to the season is remarkable on a number of levels, one of which is that it puts them one game away from tying the NHL record for the longest streak without a regulation loss to start a season -- 16 games, held by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks, who started 12-0-4.

The Ducks finished that season by hoisting the Stanley Cup; what does the future hold for these Blackhawks?

That's a question that won't be answered until the springtime. For now, let's go inside the numbers on the Blackhawks' blistering start:

Tippett/Burke tandem gives Phoenix rock-solid 'D'

Tuesday, 02.19.2013 / 10:21 AM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Seeing his first action in the National Hockey League in almost two years, recent Phoenix Coyotes call-up Chad Johnson made 21 stops against the Nashville Predators to earn his first NHL shutout. For most goaltenders, that would have been a crowning achievement.

For the Coyotes, it's par for the course.

Following Johnson's return to Portland of the American Hockey League, starter Mike Smith, who had been nursing a lower-body injury, posted three shutouts in eight games. It's all a byproduct of the stifling defense coach Dave Tippett has instituted since coming to Phoenix prior to the start of the 2009-10 season. It's a system that has benefitted greatly from the work of goaltending coach Sean Burke.

"I think he's the best," Tippett said of Burke. "He's done a heck of a job for us."

Fasth found way to Ducks by working hard in Sweden

Friday, 02.15.2013 / 12:00 PM / NHL Insider

Risto Pakarinen - Correspondent

Viktor Fasth
Goalie - ANA
RECORD: 6-0-0
GAA: 1.74 | SVP: 0.933
When goalie Viktor Fasth signed a two-year contract with Stockholm AIK in 2010, it was barely news in Sweden. The biggest morning paper, Dagens Nyheter, had a three-line blurb about it, and Aftonbladet, the biggest daily, pulled the general manager's comments off AIK's website.

No wonder. AIK played in the second- and third-tier leagues for years and had just then, in 2010, earned promotion to the Swedish Elite League. Fasth, too, spent his career in the second- and third-tier leagues, and had just signed his first SEL contract at 27.

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It's an incredible feeling just to see it go in and see the Joe go pretty crazy.  Ever since the introduction there, I was kind of feeling the nerves, and to put that one home, I started to feel comfortable and I thought my play started to pick up.

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