lindyruff

Lindy Ruff will coach in his 1,000th game tonight

When it comes to job stability for coaches in professional sports – perhaps especially hockey – cases like Lindy Ruff’s are rarer than a Derek Boogaard goal.

The scrappy coach will appear behind a bench for the 1,000th time tonight, all with the first team that hired him: the Buffalo Sabres.

Along with general manager Darcy Regier, Ruff fought through all kinds of changes, challenges and bumps in the road to accomplish something that few can even imagine in this current sports climate.

Want to get an idea of how rare it is? Here’s one number that’s pretty stunning: 155. That’s the number of coaching chances that took place since the Sabres hired Ruff after firing Ted Nolan.

If that’s not interesting enough for you, here are a few other illuminating facts about Ruff’s rare run that will give you some context on just how uncommon his tenure has been.

Ruff will become the 18th NHL coach to reach 1,000 games – to tie his former mentor, the late Roger Neilson – and join Al Arbour (1,500 with the Islanders) and Billy Reay (1,012 with Chicago) as the only ones to do it with one team.

“That’s a tribute to him, let me tell you,” Arbour said. “In some places, you lose a couple of games and they fire you. I mean, things are tough right now for Buffalo, but I know he’s going to get over it. You just hang in there.”

Ruff has endured three ownership changes, the franchise declaring bankruptcy in 2003, five seasons of missing the playoffs, as well as the highs and lows that came with four Eastern Conference finals appearances and Buffalo’s 1999 run to the Stanley Cup final. That championship run ended with Dallas winning on Brett Hull’s triple-overtime clincher in Game 6 – a goal still disputed in Buffalo because Hull’s skate was inside the crease.

As you probably know, this season might pose one of the greatest threats to the status of the league’s most tenured coach. The Sabres are tied for the second least points in the league (4-9-2 for 10 points) and the team is a pitiful 0-6-1 at home.

Yet, if any coach can survive this situation, it’s the resilient Ruff. Congrats to him on an outstanding milestone … one that might only be matched by one other active coach: Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal