Lindy Ruff will not be behind the First Niagara Center bench tonight for the Buffalo Sabres for the first time since March 20, 2006, and James Patrick will be in charge as the Sabres meet the Boston Bruins.
Patrick will move from changing the defense pairs to changing the forward lines and Kevyn Adams, who has been on the bench all season, will change the defense. First-year assistant Teppo Numminen will move down from the press box to the bench for the first time since his playing career ended here in 2009.
Patrick said Ruff is "hoping to be here" but it's certainly up in the air if the head coach if will be in the building tonight. Patrick said he could be in the press box or could simply stay in the coaches' suite in the locker room area and watch the game on the big-screen TV.
Patrick said it a little unusual to be calling forward lines but will try to keep things business as usual.
"The helpful thing is there's a lot of veteran guys with Pommer [Jason Pominville] and Gaus [Paul Gaustad] and Derek Roy," Patrick said. "It's a pretty veteran lineup. And they communicate on the bench and I don't expect any problems.
"It is a new voice but at the same time, the game plan will be the same," Pominville said. "The systems will be the same. Not much is going to change besides the person speaking and talking to us in intermission. Our focus has to remain the same. No matter who's there, we have the trust and confidence in what they're capable of doing."
"It's the ebb and flows of hockey. You can't predict how you're going to play the game either," said defenseman Jordan Leopold, whose collision with Ruff Monday caused the coach's three broken ribs. "It's one of those things. We're plenty prepared either way. If Lindy were back there, great. If not, we'll make do and stick with our system. He's made sure everything is implemented. It's just a matter of us going out there and doing it."
Patrick had a brief on-ice meeting with the team at end of the morning skate and said his message was to continue to be hard on the puck as the club has been during its 3-0-1 run. He said his first foray as a head coach should be interesting, especially if he needs to make his case known to the referees.
"Usually Lindy has to tell me to stop yelling at the referees so I've had a lot of practice at that," Patrick said. "You get answers or get a little more respect whhen you're the head coach. Hopefully that's not an issue."
Thomas Vanek skated with the team today and Patrick said he's improving. Vanek confirmed he's hoping to play this weekend, either Friday against Dallas or Saturday against Tampa Bay.
Hear Patrick's session with reporters below: