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If coach Lindy Ruff doesn't figure in the future of the Buffalo Sabres under new ownership, he wants to know. As soon as possible.

"My feeling is if the team has some new owners take over and it's Mr. Rigas and they want to make a change, then do it right now, don't wait," Ruff said. "I don't want the players to have to go through another distraction about who's going to be the coach. They don't need that. They've dealt with enough. I really believe that."

The Buffalo News reported Sunday that a change in the ownership situation was imminent and that John Rigas and the Adelphia Communications Corp. is poised to take over majority control of the team. The deal is expected to be consummated early this week. No member of the ownership group Sunday was available for comment. Team President Larry Quinn, who is traveling with the team, said only that the ownership structure remains the same today as in recent seasons and that he had not been informed of any changes.

Regarding reports of payroll shortages among some members of the ticket takers union and other arena support personnel, Quinn said he checked with arena supervisors early Sunday and was told that although the checks did go out late, there was nothing unusual about the payroll.

"If there were any discrepancies they would be in the areas of hours worked vs. hours on the time sheets," Quinn said. "Those happen sometimes because of the number of people working in the building and the number of events. When they do, they're resolved through the normal payroll process. There's nothing unusual about that."

Ruff, who was hired as Ted Nolan's successor in July, said he's been aware of a possible change in ownership almost from the day he came here. He's also heard a slew of rumors that claim new owners would want to bring their own hockey and management people in. He's also aware that Nolan, a personal favorite of Rigas, remains unemployed and living in Fort Erie, Ont.

Ruff said every coach lives with the possibility of being replaced at any time, but said his concern is for the team.

"These guys have been through a lot and they've worked to overcome a lot," he said. "If they are going to continue to go forward as a team they don't need the distraction of thinking there will be more changes."

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