Ruff turns focus away from 'idiots'

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Lindy Ruff refuses to back off on his claims that the Philadelphia Flyers' Ben Eager and Denis Gauthier played "like idiots" Monday night.

But the Buffalo Sabres coach yesterday admitted that Flyers bench boss Ken Hitchcock might have a point when he said Ruff should "mind his own (bleeping) business."

"I think Hitch is right," Ruff said yesterday in the wake of the Sabres' 8-2 win over the Flyers Monday, giving Buffalo a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final. "I've got to focus on my team and how I want them to play. And that's where it's all going to lie.

"I was emotional. He was emotional. I'm over it."

In his post-game news conference after the win Monday, Ruff unleashed his wrath at the alleged tactics used by Eager and Gauthier. Eager, who took several runs at the Sabres' Brian Campbell, received a pair of 10-minute misconducts while Gauthier was slapped with a game misconduct for ramming Tomas Vanek into the boards from behind.

Informed of Ruff's "idiots" comments, Hitchcock responded minutes later during his own news conference by dropping a couple of f-bombs Ruff's way.

Hitchcock offered a public apology yesterday.

"Even as disappointed and devastated as I was at the outcome, saying those things was wrong," Hitchcock said. "There is no excuse."

Hitchcock and general manager Bob Clarke huddled with Flyers big boss Ed Snider yesterday morning.

"It was just re-grouping," said Clarke, whose team plays host to Game 3 tonight at the Wachovia Center. "We were an undisciplined team (Monday). When things got bad, we got worse. We can't play dumb like that."

Hitchcock said goaltender Robert Esche would be back between the pipes, despite allowing five goals on just 10 shots in Game 2.

"He's very competitive," Hitchcock said.

"That's why he'll get the start. He'll bounce back."

Gauthier also will be in the lineup, having avoided punishment from the league. Radio personalities in Buffalo yesterday were urging fans to call NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell and demand Gauthier be suspended, but the ploy didn't work.

Meanwhile, Hitchcock ruled out the possibility of Keith Primeau coming back to the lineup tonight.

Primeau, who missed most of the season with post-concussion syndrome, skated in Buffalo Monday morning and figured he was "close."

But Flyers head trainer Jim McCrossin said Primeau suffered "symptoms" later that night, making his return indefinite.


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