ST. LOUIS -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock goes back a long way with Lindy Ruff. Everyone remembers the 1999 Stanley Cup final against the Dallas Stars and there was the memorable 2006 first-round series against Hitchcock's Philadelphia Flyers that was won by the Sabres in six games. Buffalo's 8-2 win in Game Two led to this classic Lindy-Hitch postgame exchange that we always find any excuse to play here whenever possible (the voice going at it with Hitch, by the way, is our man Jerry Sullivan).
But Hitchcock and Ruff are friends too. They served as assistant coaches together on Team Canada's gold-medal team at the 2010 Olympics and Hitchcock said he understands how tough the Sabres' current plight is on a coach.
"The feeling that when I watch them play, is they go great and there's the 'oh-no.' And when the oh-no comes in, it's the hardest thing in coaching to put the brakes on," Hitchcock told me today in Scottrade Center. "It's hard to even get an evaluation on what you need or whatever. They got the 'oh-nos' going. They play very well and then you get a bad play and it seems like every bad play ends up in your net. I'm feeling for Lindy. We've all been through that stuff."
"We were through that in Columbus. We took the big step, made the playoffs [in 2009] and we're thinking things are really gonna go and then we get the oh-no games going. We're on the wrong side of every darn road game so you get a bad feeling amongst your team. You feel for the guy."
But don't look for Hitchcock to have too much sympathy. Hitchcock is 21-5-6 since taking over for Davis Payne on Nov. 6 and his Blues are the NHL's best defensive team (1.94 GAA). They've won back-to-back 1-0 games and it took until the final six minutes to get the goal to beat Edmonton on Thursday, so Hitchcock wants more offense, starting tonight.
"I know what's going on on the road with Buffalo," he said. "We've had this tendency the last little while to let teams hang around and not discourage them. We want to get that out right away, get going and make them defend as much as possible."
For plenty more neat insight from Hitchcock on his team, tonight's game and the Sabres' plight, click the audio file below. One of the main voices you hear asking questions is Hall of Famer Bernie Federko, the longtime Blues center and now a television analyst for the team.