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Ruff climbs ladder in coaching wins

Lindy Ruff is proud to be a member of the exclusive 500-win club, a milestone the Buffalo Sabres' coach reached late Thursday night with a 3-0 victory over San Jose. He moved into a tie for 15th in NHL career wins, and he's ahead of Hall of Famers such as Glen Sather (497), Roger Neilson (460) and Punch Imlach (402).

Ruff, however, harbors no hopes of heading to the top of the list. Scotty Bowman is the runaway leader with 1,244 victories, 462 more than second-place Al Arbour.

"Now you're talking impossible, I think," Ruff said Friday while preparing for tonight's game against Phoenix. "Scotty's in a class of his own."

Ruff started coaching the Sabres in 1997. If he were to maintain his pace of 40 wins per season, he would pass Bowman in 2028-29. That's not going to happen, though Ruff definitely wants to keep adding to his total.

"I enjoy what I'm doing. I want to keep on doing it," said Ruff, who eventually would like to climb the ladder to general manager. "I have always thought about it, but I have no aspirations short term."

The short-term goal is to win No. 501 tonight against the Coyotes, which would push Ruff into a tie with Pat Burns for 14th place. Ruff reached 500 in 1,024 games, all with the Sabres.

"It means a lot to get 500 with the team I grew up playing for, the city that I call my home," he said in Jobing.com Arena. "I wasn't born there, but I was definitely raised there for most of my life. It's a treat. It's been a great 1,000-plus games. I wish I would've got to 500 faster."

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Ryan Miller's shutout of the Sharks was the 20th of his career and third of the season, adding to the back-to-back blankings he had in early December. This one was a little more special because he finally quieted one of his nemeses.

Dany Heatley set a San Jose record with 11 shots, and obviously none found the net. It wasn't from a lack of opportunity. Heatley was tipping pucks from close range and getting point-blank shots.

The former Ottawa winger talks a lot on the ice when he's facing Miller and the Sabres, mostly because he backs up the chatter. He had 24 goals and 51 points in his 43 games against Buffalo prior to Thursday.

"Dany likes to talk, so I didn't talk to him once," Miller said. "It was nice to have a few stops on him, especially the one early in the third there on the power play was a good one to get, keep us with the three-goal advantage and feeling good about ourselves."

Miller's 36-save performance lowered his goals-against average from 2.77 to 2.68 and boosted his save percentage from .907 to .911.

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The Coyotes are also coming off a shutout, with backup Jason LaBarbera blanking Colorado, 2-0, Thursday. He made 34 saves after learning in the morning that starter Ilya Bryzgalov needed to tend to a family medical problem. Bryzgalov returned Friday.

The Coyotes are 3-1-1 in their past five games.

"It's a step in the right direction for us," said winger Taylor Pyatt. "We're trying to find some consistency through our game."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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