Tension off Ruff, Sabres

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

The month of March has not been kind to Lindy Ruff and his Buffalo Sabres.

Having endured through one of the most difficult times of his life, the likeable Sabres coach admits his recent trials and tribulations on the home front have affected his young team.

Ruff's 11-year-old daughter Madeleine was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

She underwent surgery March 21 in Buffalo to remove the mass.

Madeleine is recovering comfortably, much to the relief of her beleaguered father and his concerned team.

"I tried to separate it from the team but, in a sense, it was a distraction," Ruff said in a phone interview yesterday."At least for the players anyway.

"All I can say is, the support we've received from the hockey world has been tremendous."

While an obviously concerned Ruff has been dealing with his pressing family matters, his team is just 1-6-0-1 since a 3-1 victory over the Leafs at the HSBC Arena on March 16.

But at least the players are well aware of the burden that has been lifted from their coach's shoulders since his daughter's operation.

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"In those kinds of situations you don't really know what to say or how to approach him, but he has been good enough to talk to us about it, and that makes us a lot more comfortable," rookie winger Jason Pominville said recently.

"He talked to us (about how the surgery went) and he's a changed man.

"Hopefully the atmosphere will be a little less tense. The family was probably nervous. It was something he always had on his mind. Now hopefully he can take that off his mind.

"It's scary stuff. You don't wish that on anybody."

Madeleine and her twin brother, Brian, are the youngest of the four Ruff children.

On a positive note, Lindy Ruff is encouraged by the fact that his team has increased its shot totals to 35-plus per game this past week heading into games tonight and Monday versus the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

Ruff has opted to keep the Sabres in Toronto between games rather than go back down the QEW to Buffalo.

"The schedule has been a real grind so it's just one less travel day for the guys, even though it is a short ride," Ruff said.

"We know this won't be easy, playing in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada. At the same time the guys should not have any problems getting up for the game."


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