Sabres face Maple Leafs in first game without Ruff
SABRES (6-10-1) at MAPLE LEAFS (10-7-0)
Last 10: Buffalo 3-7-0; Toronto 6-4-0
Season series: Toronto and Buffalo split the first two of four games with each club getting a victory on the road.
Big story: The Sabres relieved coach Lindy Ruff of his duties Wednesday afternoon. Ruff was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL with 16 years of service. He led the Sabres to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final and had a career regular-season record of 571-432-162.
Ruff ran practice Wednesday and addressed reporters afterward, but was notified he was being let go by general manager Darcy Regier a few hours later.
Regier announced that Ron Rolston, the organization's coach from the Rochester Americans (American Hockey League), will take on the role of interim coach for the remainder of the season.
"[Ruff] didn't lose the team in any way with respect to communication," Regier told the media at a press conference Wednesday. "For whatever reason, we couldn't get any traction, especially defensively. I wish I can tell you the exact reasons, but he definitely didn't lose the team."
Sabres: With four wins in their past 15 games, the Sabres were at a point where change was inevitable. The players must turn it around quickly or risk missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons.
Buffalo's 12.9 percent conversion rate on the power play is worst in the NHL, and it has been held to one goal twice and shut out once over its past five games.
A 2-1 loss at home to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday appeared to be the tipping point. Many players were voicing their frustrations in the locker room following the game.
"Something needs to get shaken up with our attitude more than anything," goalie Ryan Miller said. "It's definitely mental on our part."
Maple Leafs: Toronto has hit a brief bump in the road recently, but it could take advantage of the shake up in Buffalo. Backup goalie Ben Scrivens earned his first two NHL shutouts in back-to-back contests over the U.S. holiday weekend, but was pulled after giving up four goals on 13 shots in a 4-2 loss at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
The Maple Leafs did get good news Wednesday: Starting goalie James Reimer was skating for the first time since a lower-body injury suffered Feb. 11, and forward Joffrey Lupul (forearm) also took part in the optional practice. There is no timetable for a return to game action for either player.
Who's hot: Sabres captain Jason Pominville has three goals and eight assists over his past eight games against the Maple Leafs. ... Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk has a three-game point streak with one goal and two assists.
Injury report: Sabres defenseman Andrej Sekera (lower body) missed his second game Tuesday. Forward Ville Leino (hip) is on injured reserve. ... Maple Leafs forward Matt Frattin (knee) remains on IR.