Buffalo Sabres assistant coach Mike Ramsey came ever-so-close to earning a Stanley Cup ring last season with the Detroit Red Wings, Tuesday's opponents for the Sabres in Marine Midland Arena.
Ramsey, who had spent two previous seasons playing for the Red Wings, came out of retirement last spring to help the team's defense. He played two games, but then decided to retire again.
Ramsey was thrilled when his former teammates went on to win the Cup in June.
"I think it was something that the team deserved and definitely earned," Ramsey said. "They were first overall in the league two years in a row. That didn't seem to get the job done. When they won the Cup they were in the middle of the pack, but they were geared for the playoffs. They geared their whole season for that.
"Guys like Steve Yzerman, (Niklas) Lidstrom, (Darren) McCarty -- they have a lot of depth, great talent, good leadership. You don't win a Stanley Cup without those intangibles."
Ramsey represented a link all the way back to when current Detroit coach Scott Bowman was the coach and general manager of the Sabres. Ramsey was on the Buffalo roster for almost all of the time that Bowman was here.
"I think he mellowed a lot," Ramsey said of Bowman's coaching style. "A lot of people can't change with the times. Scotty changes, and he had to adapt a little bit, but it's the same coaching philosophy.
"Scotty stresses defense. When he came in and took over in Detroit, they scored tons of goals but gave up tons of goals. That was his mission -- cut the goals-against down, improve the penalty-killing, shore up the goaltending, getting everyone to buy into the system."
While a lack of offense was a major problem for the Sabres again, captain Michael Peca thought he spotted another reason why his team lost to the Red Wings.
"We have some guys that didn't come to play. If we continue to do that, we're never going to win games against the better teams," Peca said. "I'm frustrated that sometimes we don't come out and play as a team. The last two games (before Tuesday's contest) we had all four lines and all six defensemen going. . . . If we're going to win we have do that."
Christmas came early for one young fan during the pregame skate Tuesday evening. Detroit goalie Kevin Hodson passed his stick over the glass to the youngster at the conclusion of the warm-up. He received a nice hand from the crowd.