Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

April 27, 2007

TIM SCHMITT: Chalk up another for ol’ man Lindy

BUFFALO — To say he’s long in the coaching tooth is an understatement. Lindy Ruff still connects with a group of youngsters, but he’s clearly the old man of the National Hockey League coaches, the guy who’s been able to maintain his office nameplate longest.

And with age, of course, comes wisdom.

Where others might have been hesitant to move a rocket like Maxim Afinogenov off his line with Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, Ruff knew better.

Afinogenov was maddening to watch on Friday, and a needless second-period interference call was just one shining example. At one point prior to the penalty, Afinogenov spun with a defender on his back in the offensive zone, a wide-open Thomas Vanek at his disposal behind the net. But rather than pass, Afinogenov held the puck too long, turned it over, and a discouraged Vanek put his head down and trudged to the bench.

Afinogenov was only credited with three giveaways, but that total seems low. If it isn’t, then the timing of Afinogenov’s gaffes only widened the spotlight.

Not surprising, ol’ man Lindy made changes between the second and third periods, pushing Afinogenov to the fourth line with Tim Connolly and Adam Mair. Hard-working rookie Drew Stafford returned to the spot on Vanek and Roy’s line he occupied while Afinogenov healed his broken wrist.

And wouldn’t you know it? Wisdom won again.

Tied in the third, with the puck sitting free to the side of Henrik Lundqvist, Stafford fought off pest Sean Avery and flicked a quick backhand in the direction of Vanek, who was charging to the net.

As he’s done so many times this season, Vanek redirected it for the biggest goal of the night.

Stafford’s play ended up one of the night’s biggest in a 3-2 win, a simple play made by the right guy, who happened to be in the right position.

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