A story that made the rounds at the NHL Draft last month in Chicago became official Monday afternoon: Longtime former Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, fired in April after four years in Dallas, will return to the bench this fall as an assistant with the New York Rangers.
Ruff, 59, will be working under Alain Vigneault and will be serving as an NHL assistant for the first time since he left the Florida Panthers following the 1996-97 season to become the head man in Buffalo.
The new post means Ruff will be on the opposing bench when the Sabres meet the Rangers in the NHL Winter Classic in Citi Field on Jan. 1. Ruff, of course, was Buffalo's head coach during its memorable shootout loss to Pittsburgh in the inaugural classic in Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008.
Ruff led the Sabres to four trips to the Eastern Conference final and to the 1999 Stanley Cup final before he was fired in February, 2013. He is fifth on the NHL's all-time list with 736 victories, leading the Sabres in their history with 571 and adding 165 more in Dallas.
On the all-time victory list, Ruff is behind only Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Joel Quenneville, and Ken Hitchcock, who was named to replace him in Dallas. Ruff is fourth in games coached at 1,493 -- trailing Bowman, Arbour and Quenneville.
Ruff, a former Sabres captain, completed his NHL career over parts of three seasons with the Rangers from 1989-1991.
Former teammate Jim Schoenfeld, also a former Buffalo captain, is a senior vice president and assistant general manager for the Rangers. Chris Drury, Ruff's co-captain on Buffalo's 2006 and 2007 Eastern Conference finalists, is also an assistant GM for the Rangers. New York denied the Sabres permission to speak to Drury for the Buffalo GM post that eventually went to Jason Botterill.