Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff knows a thing or two about hard hits. The sometimes-fiery leader behind the Sabres bench built his 13-year playing career with an on-ice physical presence and has delivered his fair share of bone-jarring checks.
But Ruff can also sympathize with players like Philadelphia's RJ Umberger - who was laid out by Brian Campbell in Game 1 of Buffalo's playoff series against the Flyers - as the former defenseman turned left wing has also been at the receiving end of such a collision.
"I've been on the other end," said Ruff, whose 1,126 penalty minutes as a player ranks sixth in franchise history. "I woke up in a Quebec dressing room off a behind-the-back pass."
Reminiscing during his pre-game press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Ruff remembers watching his feed sail across the ice before the lights went out and he found himself lying on a table without a clue what had transpired.
"I saw the replay and the funny thing was he got to play two nights later," laughed Ruff. "I remember who it was, but I don't even want to bring it up ... that dirty little bugger."
The villain in this case was notorious agitator Dale Hunter, who played for the Nordiques from 1980 through 1987, and whose 1,562 penalty minutes are still listed as the Colorado Avalanches franchise record.
The catnap Hunter put Ruff into was more like a coma than a peaceful slumber. The then captain of the Sabres and now longest-tenured coach in the National Hockey League has no recollection of his removal from the ice to the locker room. That span of time simply doesn't exist in Ruff's memory.
"I was snoring," Ruff said. "The guys said I was laying there and just snoring away."
Ruff had to laugh at the irony of his current situation. With its ninth-round selection (273rd overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Buffalo selected Hunter's son, Dylan.
The 6'0'', 190-pound left wing recently finished his fourth season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League - a team where his father serves as president and head coach - and is the second-leading scorer in the 2006 OHL Playoffs with 27 points (10+17) in 14 games.
When the adolescent Hunter traveled to Sabres training camp last September at HSBC Arena, Ruff couldn't help but clue the youngster in on his father and coach's history.
"I said, 'don't worry, I won't hold that time your dad knocked me out against you'," joked Ruff. "I told him I had completely forgotten about that already."