He was hired back in 1997 and retained his post as Sabres coach while 170 other coaching changes have been made in the league. But Wednesday night in Buffalo, Ruff will have to find a new position to watch his club’s game against the Bruins.
Ruff suffered three broken ribs when he was upended in an accidental collision with defenseman Jordan Leopold in practice Monday. The injuries will prevent Ruff from coaching on Wednesday, though he does hope to attend the game, watching either from the press box or on TV in the coach’s office.
Assistant James Patrick will take over the duties behind the bench. Patrick usually makes the defensive changes, with Ruff calling out the line changes up front. But on Wednesday, Patrick will handle the forwards and fellow assistant Kevyn Adams will work with the defense.
Adams was originally a first-round pick of the Bruins in 1993, but never signed with Boston. He did go on to play 540 games in the NHL with Toronto, Columbus, Florida, Carolina, Phoenix and Chicago. Long-time Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen, who’s in his first year as an assistant coach, will come down from his usual perch in the press box to help out on the bench as well
“Lindy won’t be on the bench tonight, so Kevyn and I and Teppo will be running the bench,” Patrick told reporters after the morning skate. “Lindy is hoping to be here. That’s the plan right now. We had a meeting with him yesterday afternoon, spoke to him at length this morning, so that’s how it stands right now.”
Patrick was a long-time defenseman himself, but he isn’t too concerned with switching over to run the forwards.
“It’ll be different, but I’ve been around and been on the bench for 20 years as a player,” Patrick said. “The helpful thing is there’s a lot of veteran guys with Pommer [Jason Pominville] and Gaus [Paul Gaustad] and Derek Roy. It’s a pretty veteran lineup. And they communicate on the bench and I don’t expect any problems.”
At least not from the bench. Controlling himself in discussions with referees Rob Martell and Dan O’Halloran could be another matter entirely.
“Usually Lindy has to tell me to stop yelling at the referees so I’ve had a lot of practice at that,” Patrick said. “You get answers or get a little more respect when you’re the head coach. Hopefully that’s not an issue.”
On the other bench, Bruins coach Claude Julien was disappointed to hear that Ruff would not be able to coach in this game and sympathized with his injured counterpart.
“He may pop in there, you never know,” Julien said of Ruff. “But I know he’s been through a pretty bad fall. You don’t like to see those things. [Edmonton coach] Tom [Renney] gets the puck in the head and it just goes to show you there’s always a risk out there.
“You don’t like to see those things,” Julien added. “I guess it just goes to show there is a risk in our job as well as those players have, especially in practice. I’ve had a few collisions myself. It happens. That’s why you’ve got to be ready all the time. Sometimes when you see it, you can brace yourself. When you don’t, it can be a tough fall. We don’t have that much protection underneath that sweatsuit except for the extra weight we carry.”
Julien was asked if coaches should consider wearing helmets in practice, but the old-school bench boss didn’t sound too interested in that.
“I know the logically response would be yes, but we are stubborn in our own ways,” Julien said. “Even in the summer time, I know all minor [youth] hockey coaches have to wear helmets and I’m the first one to say I think it’s great, then if I go on the ice with them I don’t want to wear one. I’m just being honest here.”
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