RUFF TALKS COACHING STABILITY
Saturday, 12.17.2011 / 12:55 PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Lindy Ruff gathered his troops at the hotel this morning, and they sat down with some popcorn and cold drinks to watch the video of last night’s exciting win over Toronto. Only a handful of players then made the short walk next door in light snowy conditions to the Consol Energy Center for an optional skate.
Ruff dressed seven defensemen last night against Toronto, but doesn’t plan on doing that tonight in Pittsburgh. Even in the back-to-back scenario, Ruff isn’t planning on sharing time between Marc-Andre Gragnani and Brayden McNabb like he did last night. Gragnani played 14:16, while McNabb only skated 6:48.
“My plan is not to use Marc on wing. If anything I’ll take a defenseman out and play four lines – play Colin Stuart. I thought Marc played well last night on the back end. He moved the puck well and did some good things. That wasn’t any of our issues.”
With the firing of Jacques Martin in Montreal today, there have now been 169 coaching changes in the NHL since Ruff was hired in Buffalo on July 21, 1997. Ruff, the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, understands the volatile nature of the head coaching position.
“We’re in a tough business. I feel fortunate to be standing here talking to you guys when we’ve had a lot of coaches that have lost their positions. I don’t think Jacques was doing a bad job. I think that’s what our league is; the parity is really close and it’s tough to pull away. I think Jacques is a good coach. He’s a good man, and a good coach.”
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Ruff is very familiar with Martin’s successor in Montreal. Randy Cunneyworth played for the Sabres under Ruff, and also coached Buffalo’s AHL affiliate in Rochester for eight seasons before moving on to an assistant’s position with Atlanta.
“If you ask the players, he’s good with the players. He has a good rapport. He’s a player’s coach. I think that’s what our business is. You go from a guy that’s hard, to a guy that’s easy … to a guy that’s hard, to a guy that’s easy. You find maybe a better way to relate to some players. And I think that’s what they’re looking at. Randy is a good man and I’m sure that he’ll do a good job.”
Buffalo isn’t the only team being ravaged by injuries this season. The Penguins are already without stars Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, and last night they lost defenseman Paul Martin with an apparent leg injury. Zbynek Michalek also missed his eighth straight with a concussion. With all they key injuries on the Penguins blueline, Ruff says they need to play an attacking north-south game against the Penguins tonight.
“For us, it’s try to play a puck pressure game. Challenge the defense; create some opportunities because of the personnel that are missing.”
Tonight’s game closes out Buffalo’s ninth of a league-high 21 sets of back-to-back games this season. The Sabres are 6-3-0 in the first game and 5-3-0 in the second. The Sabres have swept two sets and split six.