The Buffalo Sabres have relieved Lindy Ruff of his coaching duties, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

He will be replaced by Ron Rolston, coach of the Rochester Americans, the Sabres’ American Hockey League affiliate, on an interim basis for the rest of this season, general manager Darcy Regier said.

“I think we were making some strides, but in the end, for every two steps forward we would take one step back,” Regier said. “Unfortunately, this is the time of year when coaching is probably the thing that is probably evaluated the most.”

A 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center on Tuesday night left the Sabres with a 6-10-1 record. Buffalo’s 13 points are the fewest in the Northeast Division and tied for the third-fewest in the Eastern Conference.

After opening the season 2-0, the club is on a 4-10-1 slide and sits four points out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference standings.

“[Lindy] didn’t lose the team in any way with respect to communication,” Regier said. “In fact, the communication has never been better.”

“Unfortunately, it didn’t translate to the ice. For whatever reason, we couldn’t get any traction, especially defensively. … It was really hard to get a grip on it.”

Ruff, who played most of his NHL career for the Sabres, began coaching the team in 1997-98 and, at 15 years, was the longest-tenured coach in the League. He also played left wing and defense with the club from 1979 to 1989, giving him a 25-year association with the Sabres.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank Lindy,” Regier said. “As a player, a great coach, and and outstanding citizen in this community.”

Rolston, 45, is in his second season as coach of the Americans. The team is 27-18-2-1, tied for seventh place in the Western Conference.

Last season, the Americans were 36-26-10-4, reaching the Calder Cup Playoffs after finishing seventh in the West.

Regier said allowing Rolston to coach the rest of the season “will provide us and him the opportunity to get to know each other, and if things go well, he’ll have the opportunity to become the head coach.”

Rolston will ride with Regier to Toronto, where the Sabres play the Maple Leafs on Thursday.

Ruff, 53, was the second-longest tenured coach in North American pro sports after Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs (1996).

He is the first coach fired in the League this season.

Ruff led the Sabres to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final and had 571 regular-season wins, the best mark in club history, finishing with a 571-432-162 record.

Ruff coached practice Wednesday morning, putting the team through its paces for close to 90 minutes. He spoke to the media after practice, but was fired by Regier hours later.

“This is professional sports; he understood it, he was extremely professional,” Regier said. “It was a tough day. It really is.”


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