When Lindy Ruff was fired Feb. 20 after 14 years as coach of the Buffalo Sabres, it would be expected that he'd want some time away from the game.
Instead, he found himself watching the most compelling television he could find -- the game that night between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Even in his one of his darkest moments, Ruff allowed himself to be captured by what's become the No. 1 rivalry in the NHL today.
The latest edition of the Keystone State clash comes Thursday, when the Penguins visit the Flyers (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). It's the third meeting between the teams this season, with the Penguins beating the Flyers 3-1 on opening night in Philadelphia, while the Flyers won 6-5 in that Feb. 20 game in Pittsburgh.
And the words of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby from last year's memorable Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series still ring true -- "I don't like them. … I don't like any guy on their team."
That passion is part of what has made Flyers-Penguins games appointment viewing not just for fans of both teams, but for other NHL players, coaches and broadcasters. NHL.com talked to a few folks who make their living in the League, and the response showed that if they don't have a game to play, coach or broadcast, they'll be watching the Penguins and Flyers.
Keaton Ellerby, D, Los Angeles Kings: "Both teams are stacked with talent. You know it's going to be a highlight reel so it's a good game to, if not watch, definitely catch the highlights of. If I was looking to watch a hockey game that would probably be one of them that I would catch, for sure. You look at both teams, you just look at all the skill that they have and the all-star lineups that both teams have. It's definitely a great matchup."
Zach Parise, LW, Minnesota Wild: "Yes, of course [I watch], and even before their playoff series last year. For whatever reason, they always have great games against each other. They bring a little bit of everything. Those are games you look at on the schedule and that's one of those rivalries you like to watch. It has the star power. There are usually fights in the game and a lot of goals. From a fan's perspective it's everything you want, and when you know how much the teams dislike each other, it makes it that much better."
Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Colorado Avalanche: "Absolutely [I watch it]. I watched it last year in the playoffs and it was one of the best playoff series I've seen in a while. Absolutely, it's a great rivalry, two good teams going at it, that's for sure."
Kyle Brodziak, C, Minnesota Wild: "Those games are fun to watch, especially after the playoffs last year. That was probably one of the craziest series people can remember. It's fun to watch them."
Andrew Shaw, RW, Chicago Blackhawks: "Those games are usually high scoring, and in the playoffs last year it was unbelievable. I love it … fights, hits, scrums after every whistle. It's a rivalry that all hockey fans like to see. I love that type of game and watching it."
Erik Gudbranson, D, Florida Panthers: "If I don't get the chance to watch that game ... I'll see the game sheet after to see if the penalty box was full all game. That's fun hockey. It's in your face. It's exciting to watch."
Alex Goligoski, D, Dallas Stars: "It's obviously two teams with a lot of firepower. Both have great goaltending, too, and good [defense]. You don't really know what's going to happen, but the other team just seems to answer every time. It's fun to watch, especially that last one [Feb. 20]."
Jordan Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes: "Philly-Penguins is a good rivalry. You've got so much firepower out there. It makes for an exciting game, and usually there is a lot of offense and a lot of chances, so it's fun-to-watch hockey."
Jussi Jokinen, LW, Carolina Hurricanes: "It's been one of the most entertaining rivalries the past few years. You think of last year's playoffs with the high-scoring games. It was old-school hockey with lots of fights, lots of things going on. So it's entertaining, for sure."
Eddie Olczyk, broadcaster, NBC Sports: "It's hard not to be drawn to that rivalry regardless of how a team might be playing or isn't playing. I mean, history has a lot to do with it. The [Stanley Cup Playoff] series has a lot to do with it. But if you're a fan, regardless of where you are or if you're working, I mean, you've got to find a way to watch it."
Troy Brouwer, LW, Washington Capitals: "Those games are always interesting. There's a lot more to them than just the regular hockey game that it is, so guys do pay attention to them if they're not preoccupied with their own games or their own schedules. Those ones are fun to watch, especially because of last year's playoff series. The other thing, too, is the players in it -- whenever you have a clash of that many skilled players from good teams, it just draws more attention.
Ryane Clowe, LW, San Jose Sharks: "It's usually a little more exciting game whenever those two teams meet. Last year in the playoffs, watching those games, it was a little bit crazy with all the goals and stuff happening, so you probably don't know what you're going to get in those games and that makes them more interesting to watch. It's kind of like Boston-Montreal or Toronto-Montreal; it seems more people watch those games, including us."
Eric Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes: "I did watch the last round of highlights because I heard it was a pretty interesting game, and then seeing [Tomas] Vokoun out of the net with five Penguins in the net when [Nicklas Grossmann] scored, it was pretty entertaining to watch. It's not something that I'm making sure I DVR to watch the game, but I definitely pay attention to the highlights and know the rivalry and how heated it's become."