NEW YORK -- There will be a familiar face on the New York Rangers bench during Monday's Winter Classic, one that has primo experience with the Buffalo Sabres' lone example of taking it outdoors.
Lindy Ruff is an assistant coach under Alain Vigneault, back as an NHL aide for the first time since 1997 after getting fired in the spring after four years as the head man of the Dallas Stars.
Vigneault brought in Ruff, 57, to man the Rangers' defense and penalty killing units and is reaping benefits. New York is third in the league on the PK at 84.1 percent.
"Anybody that knows Lindy knows not only the hockey person that he is, but that he's a great individual," Vigneault said after practice Sunday at Citi Field. "No ego at all. It's all about the team, all about the group. It was a real good decision on our part to bring him on board. He's a big asset. He's got a great personality that really helps everybody, coaches, players and management. It was a real good decision for us."
Ruff, of course, was the head coach of the Sabres from 1997-2013. He won 571 games for the Sabres, ensuring he will hold the franchise record for coaching victories for many years, and added another 165 for Dallas. His total of 736 was just passed Saturday night by Washington's Barry Trotz, who won No. 737 to move into No. 5 on the all-time list.
Ruff was not available in the Rangers' locker room Sunday during the time reporters were inside the room, which is normally the New York Mets' clubhouse. Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said it was quickly clear from training camp how experienced a set of eyes the Rangers were adding to their staff.
"It has been awesome for our whole D corps to have him," McDonagh said. "He's seen the game for so long and has such a good understanding of the plays that are happening good and bad. He knows if you're in the right spot but he understands bad bounce too or if it's something you can control better.
"He wants the D-men on the same page with their partner and working together with the forwards. You see his experience there knowing how fast-paced the game is. He does a good job helping to incorporate everybody."
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist said Ruff has been particularly helpful with the Rangers' pre-game prep.
"He's been really good and you can tell he's such a really good coach right when he comes in because of the details he brings in," Lundqvist said. "He's worked hard on the penalty kill. There's a lot of traits we see from him that have helped us that really adds to the group. It's important for sure."
Ruff wore a Sabres varsity-style jacket through the snow during the '08 Winter Classic. McDonagh said he not had stumbled across any pictures of it but added, "I have another night before the game. I'll have to look it up now."
Ruff wore a grey hoodie under his Rangers jacket to battle the frigid conditions at practice Sunday.
"Tonight as a team and again tomorrow morning, we'll talk things that can help us with the elements and how it all plays into the game," McDonagh said. "I'm sure Lindy will have some things to say."