Dale Hunter was one of the most reviled opponents in Sabres history, a complete nuisance on the ice who got under the skin of players and fans alike during his days with the Quebec Nordiques in the 1980s and again for the Washington Capitals as they beat the Sabres in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals (left).
Hunter is back in town tonight in his 12th game as the head coach of the Caps. He's 5-5-1 since taking over for Bruce Boudreau. And he got a chuckle when I asked him what's he like to return to a place where he was Public Enemy No. 1 for a long time.
"That's a long time ago," Hunter said. "You come here, you know you're going to play hard and stuff happens out there. ... What you remember is the fans and there were always great battles in the playoffs and stuff. It's a hockey town."
Hunter may be a bit of a lame duck as the Washington Post reported last week his contract is only through the end of the season so the Caps might be searching again but for now, at least, he's trying to put more of a defensive style into the once free-wheeling Caps.
"Bruce was an offensive guy who really wanted to outscore teams and really cared about goals and Dale can care less," said veteran Mike Knuble. "If you play a stingy defensive game and win 1-0 or 2-1, he's comfortable playing in those games. He's conitioning to play calm in those situations and not get antsy. If the game is going to finish 1-0, hopefully we've got the one."
Getty Images photos: Hunter roughs up Brian Holzinger during the 1998 Caps-Sabres series and behind the Caps bench last week.