BUFFALO - Tough times in the coaching brotherhood. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was sidelined for last night’s game against the Bruins after fracturing three ribs in a freak accident during practice Monday. Oilers coach Tom Renney needed Monday night off after getting smacked in the head with a puck that morning.
The Bruins’ Claude Julien, a veteran of the perils of coaching, said yesterday morning that it makes abundant sense for coaches to wear helmets during on-ice workouts. But common sense, he noted, doesn’t always rule the day.
“The logical response would be yes,’’ said Julien, asked if he ever considered wearing a helmet during practices. “But we are stubborn in our ways. If I’m on the ice, I don’t want to wear one.’’
Ruff, in his 14th season as Sabres coach, watched from the press box last night. Longtime NHL defenseman James Patrick, Ruff’s lead assistant, assumed the role of bench boss and was in charge of the forwards.
Ruff was injured when defenseman Jordan Leopold lost an edge during a skating drill and tumbled into the unaware coach, who will turn 52 a week from tomorrow. X-rays revealed that Ruff cracked three ribs, and he has not returned to work.
Renney, another veteran coach, was felled when a puck deflected by defenseman Ladislav Smid struck him in the head, requiring the 56-year-old to have some 20 stitches. He missed that night’s game and also remained off the ice for the Oilers workout Tuesday.
Tuukka Rask, without a win in his last three starts, started in the Boston net last night, looking for his first win since a 3-2 shootout decision over the Panthers Jan. 16, but he didn’t make it out of the second period. On the morning of games, Julien rarely reveals his starting netminder, but he was quick to tell the media yesterday that Rask would be in net. Is the old coach going soft? “Nope,’’ he said. “Just depends what side of the bed I get up on.’’
Former Sabre Daniel Paille led the Bruins through their brief on-ice stretch following the morning workout. There is no hard-and-fast rule as to who will lead the stretch, which has one player in the middle of the ice, ringed by his teammates. But on the road, it’s usually the Bruin with some connection to the host team or town.
“I was the guy because I played here and I grew up only 20 minutes away,’’ explained Paille, who grew up just over the border in Welland, Ontario, practically a bike ride to Niagara Falls. “And when we’re in Columbus, it’s Quaider [Adam McQuaid] because he was drafted by them. And in Montreal, Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] because he’s from Quebec City. In Florida, we’ve got [ex-Panthers] Soup [Gregory Campbell] and Horts [Nathan Horton].’’
Paille, the diligent left winger on the club’s energy line that includes Campbell and Shawn Thornton, grew up with French his first language, although there isn’t a hint of his native tongue in his speech.
“It’s just worn away completely over time, I guess,’’ he noted. “But my dad grew up in Quebec and he’s still got it.
“Welland has a big French community, and when I was a kid it was very common there. You picked what school you wanted to attend - French or English - and I took everything in French until 11th grade when I went away to junior.
“We spoke it at home. We spoke it in school. And it was kind of neat because I already spoke English, too, but because I was taking all the courses in French, I had to take English as one of my courses. In the English school, it was the other way around, obviously.
“I just remember, kids who weren’t as comfortable in English liked having me in those classes.’’
The Bruins have five team members, including Julien, who grew up speaking French first. On the playing roster, Paille is joined by Bergeron, Benoit Pouliot, and Jordan Caron.
“When the four of us are together, that’s what we speak,’’ said Paille. “But that’s if it’s just us talking. If there’s another guy with us, I always make it a point to speak English. Just the polite thing to do.’’
Erstwhile No. 1 center David Krejci has gone four straight games without a point. Julien moved him around, taking him off the No. 3 line late in the action. He still only landed one shot on net and got thumped at the faceoff dot, winning only 2 of 10 drops . . . Rask’s start likely means that Tim Thomas, winner of four of his last five, will take the cage for Saturday’s matinee with the Predators on Causeway Street . . . The Bruins did not have a power play after entering 0 for 7 in their last three games . . . Patrick is convinced that power-play opportunities are down across the league. Why? He believes on-ice officials have adopted more of a “let-’em-play’’ posture, with the playoffs only two months on the horizon. “They are letting a lot more go,’’ he said.
Being heard from
With Ruff out, Patrick was asked who would assume the duty of giving the refs an earful. “Usually, Lindy has to tell me to stop yelling at the refs,’’ Patrick said . . . Four Boston forwards scored all the goals Sunday in Washington - Rich Peverley, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin, and Milan Lucic. In their three previous games, Bruins defensemen had outscored the forwards, 3-2. Also, 23 of Boston’s 30 shots Sunday came from forwards. Too much of their offensive game recently was backloaded . . . The Sabres and Islanders entered yesterday tied for the fewest goals (126) in the East. Only Columbus (122) and Minnesota (123) had fewer.
Following the loss, Julien noted his club’s “so-called reputation’’ for its aggressive style and physical ways. “The tolerance against us is high,’’ he said, referring to which way penalties are called. “And the tolerance for us is very low.’’ . . . Boston defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara, and Johnny Boychuk each finished minus-3 . . . The Bruins won 68 percent of the faceoffs, with Bergeron successful on 18 of 22 (82 percent) . . . Chris Kelly went 10 for 10 on faceoffs . . . Campbell, Paille, and Peverley were the only Bruins not to land a shot on net.