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Ruff can relate to reprimand for Yashin

UNIONDALE -- Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and New York Islanders captain Alexei Yashin have about as much in common as doughnuts and tofu.

Ruff would admit one thing: Anybody who holds a prestigious leadership position can get eaten up by a humbling, public reprimand.

He knows. It happened to him.

While Ruff seemed reluctant to talk about Islanders coach Ted Nolan's decision to bench Alexei Yashin for much of Game Two of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Ruff recalled a situation he called "the most embarrassing moment for me as a Buffalo Sabre" at the time.

Ruff's playing days came to a controversial end in Buffalo shortly after coach Ted Sator made his captain a healthy scratch in February 1989. Ruff resigned his captaincy two days later. Within three weeks he was traded to the New York Rangers for a fifth-round draft pick.

"I wish I would have reacted differently. But I didn't," Ruff said at Monday morning's skate prior to Game Three in Nassau Coliseum. "I've been kind of an emotional guy, and I reacted harshly to that situation as a player."

Ruff said the crossroads moment should have been a reality check.

"If I look back on it now, as a coach, and I review the way I was playing, maybe they should have benched me a couple weeks sooner," said Ruff, drawing laughter from a group of reporters. "And I'm being serious. That isn't being funny.

"You always think 'Gosh, I'm playing good.' I look back and maybe my time was up, and that's a hard decision for a coach. I was done as a player, and now I realize it. Right then, I would have fought anybody about it."

While Ruff was quoted at the time as saying Sator's decision "really ripped a piece out of me. It will be a long time before I forget something like this," the low-key Yashin hasn't created a public ruckus since he was mothballed.

Yashin received a team-low 7:07 of ice time in the Islanders' 3-2 victory Saturday. He was demoted to the fourth line and didn't go over the boards once in the final nine minutes.

"Every coach has his own feelings," Ruff said. "You just have feelings on the way players are playing. Sometimes ice time goes up. Sometimes it goes down. I have my own feelings, but I'll keep those to myself."

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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