Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

March 14, 2008

TIM SCHMITT: There's still some fight left in Lindy

COMMENTARY

BUFFALO — There’s a reason good basketball coaches constantly wince like they’ve got a thumbtack in their sock.

They’re hoping the incessant whining, the hand-wringing and all that pointing and hollering will get one call that makes a difference.

Just one.

Lindy Ruff doesn’t do it often, but he played a masterful Jim Boeheim during Friday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, infusing life into his team when they needed a pick-me-up.

With just 13 minutes gone and the hosts up 3-0, there was that eerie feeling that Buffalo had gotten too much too quickly. The Sabres have hardly done well with fast starts this season, blowing big leads as easily as they made up for them last year.

Jochen Hecht had just been whistled for cross-checking, and the Hurricanes were set to take a two-man advantage. A goal certainly would get them right back into it, especially considering Buffalo’s penchant for letting visitors creep back into games at HSBC Arena.

Despite his team having the extra skaters, Matt Cullen kept yapping. And yapping. Ruff was incensed. He nearly charged on the ice himself, angry with something Cullen said. He begged for referees to do something.

Sure enough, the Carolina center was charged with an oh-so-rare unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Less than a minute later with the Sabres earning a reprieve from a 5-on-3, Paul Gaustad found a puck caught in Bret Hedican’s skates and banged it home, chasing Cam Ward for the night.

Score one for the ol’ puck coach.

“He brings a lot of energy,” Jason Pominville said. “And that’s what we expect from him. We need to bring that same kind of energy every night. He’s going to be in our faces and we know that.”

This has been building, of course, as the pressure to stroke the psyche of a fragile team becomes tiresome.

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