Lindy Ruff is used to setting up shop inside the Buffalo Sabres locker room. However, he’ll be across the hall Monday night, preparing for the game with his new team, the visiting Dallas Stars.
Ruff earned 571 wins in 1,165 games behind the Sabres bench before being relieved of his duties 17 games into the 2012-13 season. He signed on with Dallas over the summer and added former Sabres assistant coach James Patrick to his staff.
The Sabres host the Stars at First Niagara Center at 7 p.m. in Ruff’s first game back in Buffalo since being replaced by Ron Rolston. The game can be seen on MSG in the U.S. and on Bell TV in Canada. It can also be heard live on WGR 550.
Ruff said he still wants to see Buffalo succeed – on most nights, that is.
“Not tonight, I can’t root,” he said with a laugh. “I can root in-between games and they’re in the East. I root for the city and I root for the team. I want to see them do well.”
The Sabres are going with a youth movement and have dressed four teenagers, all first-round picks, the past four games. The Sabres have seven rookies in the lineup at the moment and at 2-10-1, sit in last place in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s tough to see where the team is at in the standings, but I watch how these players play and how some of the young players play and I think there’s a lot of promise there,” Ruff said. “I know it is really tough, but I understand where they’re at.”
As to how he thinks he’ll received by fans during the game?
“I have nothing but good memories. I think it’ll be a warm reception and I know we need to win a game,” he said. “We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs this year, too, as a team.”
Ruff said he was able to say hello to some of his former players like goaltender Ryan Miller this morning and he connected with Thomas Vanek on Sunday.
“I traded texts with Thomas last night and wished him well. Again, it’s a funny feeling when you’re seeing your ex-players that you’ve been around a long time and seeing Ryan for a long time,” he said. “It’s great to see, and in some ways, it just feels awkward.”
The Sabres are adjusting to the sudden trade of Vanek, their co-captain, and the arrival of Matt Moulson from the New York Islanders.
Rolston said that Ruff, like Vanek, was a dedicated member of the organization. Ruff also played for the Sabres from 1979 to 1989 and served as captain.
“[He] put a lot into the organization, had great success here and we certainly welcome him back and it’ll be good to see him,” Rolston said. “[I] saw him a little bit in the hallway, but I’m glad they’re doing well in Dallas and he found a spot. [He] and James are terrific people and we wish them all the success.”
The Sabres did not do any line rushes in their morning skate, but Rolston said the only change in the lineup will be Moulson in for Vanek. That would mean defenseman Jamie McBain would be the team’s only healthy scratch for the second straight game.
Rolston said Moulson will likely slide into Vanek’s spot on a line with Cody Hodgson and Brian Flynn.
Miller was the first goaltender off the ice during the skate and is expected to start in goal.