DALLAS — Lindy Ruff is a busy man. He’s attempting to keep the Dallas Stars in a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference. He’s trying to form a cohesive team during his first year as coach. He’s rebuilding a struggling power play. He’s receiving kudos for a milestone.
With all that going on, the longtime Buffalo bench boss hasn’t had a chance to examine the chaos in Sabreland.
“It’s been a little bit of craziness, but I have no time to sit and ponder what’s going on,” Ruff said. “I have to make sure that my team is ready.”
They were ready, and Ruff can prove it with his 600th victory.
The coach welcomed the trade-happy, management-changing Sabres to his new home for the first time Monday, and the Stars’ 3-2 victory made him the 12th coach to reach 600 wins. So what does it mean?
“It means I’m on my way to 700 hopefully,” Ruff, who improved to 600-454-172, said with a smile before turning serious. “It means that I’ve had a lot of good players. I’ve coached a lot of good players. I had some real good teams, a Presidents’ Trophy team.
“Those wins for the most part belong to all those guys on the ice who go out and get them for you. The guys went out and got me one.”
The Stars hold the final Western wild-card spot, but Winnipeg and Vancouver are one point back while Phoenix is just two out. Dallas is attempting to end a five-year playoff drought.
“We haven’t made the playoffs here for how many years, and it’s kind of nagging on us,” captain Jamie Benn said.
The Stars know if they do make the postseason, Buffalo just made it tougher for them to reach the Stanley Cup final. Dallas may have to go through St. Louis, which bolstered its division-leading team by acquiring goaltender Ryan Miller.
“It makes it tougher,” said Ruff, who is taking pleasure in applying extra pressure to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “He’s got, I think, 11 Olympians. I just told him there’s no reason why he shouldn’t win the Cup now. He said, ‘Oh, not another person predicting us!’ I said, ‘Well, don’t let people down.’ ”
Miller held his first news conference in St. Louis, and the goalie’s future is on people’s minds. The pending free agent has played just one game with the Blues but is already being asked if he’ll re-sign with the team.
“It’s definitely a possibility,” Miller said. “I’m very open to it, but right now it’s more about the hockey. We’re going to have a lot of time later on to feel that out.”
Sabres fans would likely be fine with Miller staying in St. Louis. If he re-signs before the NHL draft or if the Blues reach the Western Conference final, Buffalo receives St. Louis’ first-round pick this June. The conditional pick could fall to a third-round selection in 2016.
“It was difficult for me to have to say goodbye to Buffalo,” Miller said. “It’s something that kind of hit me harder than I actually thought it would, but now that I’ve had a chance to step away it becomes exciting.”
The waiver transactions will be worth watching this afternoon.
Nashville, which is welcoming back Pekka Rinne from injury, waived Devan Dubnyk on Monday.
The 27-year-old, who also played for Edmonton this season, is just 11-18-3 with a 3.43 goals-against average and .891 save percentage. But he will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, which makes him a potential stopgap backup for Jhonas Enroth with Jaroslav Halak likely to be traded.
General Manager Tim Murray said the Sabres’ minor-leaguers are not ready for the NHL, so claiming Dubnyk would save Buffalo from trading for a backup.
The Islanders left New York on Monday, so left wing Thomas Vanek had a plan for spending Wednesday’s trade deadline on the road.
“You pack a few extra clothes for sure,” said Vanek, who will be dealt. “We all know what’s ahead of us.”