The Buffalo Sabres will have a familiar face in the First Niagara Center on Monday night — Lindy Ruff.
Ruff was coach of the Sabres for 16 seasons before being fired early into last season. On Monday he will return with his new team, the Dallas Stars, making his first appearance in Buffalo as an opponent.
Lindy Ruff was a lifetime Sabre, selected by the team in the 1979 draft. After his playing career ended he became the team’s head coach, replacing Ted Nolan. Ruff had a 571-432-162 record with the Buffalo Sabres and left as the winningest coach in team history.
Ruff said he’s been thinking a lot about his return to Buffalo to face the Sabres.
“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it,” Ruff said Saturday. “It’s going to be great walking in the building, say hello to old faces. I’ve got a lot of good friends there, good memories. We had a lot of great hockey in there. It’ll be a good day. I want to see our team play really well.”
Remembered as a defensive-minded coach, Ruff found success with the Buffalo Sabres but was never able to get the team over the hump. He led a gritty team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 — losing to the Stars in six games — and to the Eastern Conference Finals three other times.
But now, he visits a Buffalo Sabres team in flux. The team has dropped to 2-10-1 on the season and appears committed to rebuilding through the draft. On Sunday the team traded its top scoring threat, Thomas Vanek, to the New York Islander in exchange for a first-round and second-round draft pick, in addition to forward Matt Moulson.