A difference of philosophy has established a common bond between Hartford coach Rick Ley and longtime Whaler Ron Francis. Now both are former Hartford captains.
Francis was stripped of the captaincy he has held since February 1985 while meeting with Ley before a Friday morning skate at Memorial Auditorium.
"I was not happy with the direction the team was going or the leadership and I felt a change was necesary," Ley said.
The Whalers carried a five-game road winning streak into Memorial Auditorium, but are 0-3-1 in their last four home games. Following Wedensday's 4-3 loss to visiting Montreal, Ley said, "The answer isn't standing here. It's in the dressing room."
"Maybe it will take some of the pressure of me," Francis said. "I said, 'If you think that's better for the club, I'm all for it.' "
Pierre Turgeon returned to the lineup on Friday night after missing two games with a twisted knee. He was held pointless for the sixth straight game; he didn't have a shot on goal; he was among the first of the players to flee the locker room.
Sabres defenseman Jay Wells was assessed a gross misconduct at game's end after voicing his displeasure with the work of referee Paul Stewart.
"I think he put his whistle in his pocket for the last 10 or 15 minutes of the period," Wells explained. "Guys were all over Alex, hooking him, holding him, throwing him around, and he just pocketed the old whistle.
"There was many calls he could have made. He's laughing and joking and taking his old time out there, playing games. And it's a serious game. I lashed a little bit at him; he'll probably get the last laugh."
Defenseman Mike Ramsey missed his fifth straight game because of a rib pull. Buffalo sat out defenseman Greg Brown and forwards John Tucker and Robert Ray. . . . The three stars went to Pat Verbeek, Scott Young and Dale Hawerchuk.