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Ruff ready to take Sabres to next level: 'I'm a risk-taker'

Ben Jackson / National Hockey League / Getty

Lindy Ruff has already spent a combined 25 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres as a player and head coach, but his latest stint with the franchise is personal.

"I think I understand ... how great this city is when you have a successful hockey club. ... It would mean a lot to have this group of players experience what I was able to experience as a player and as a coach," the bench boss said Tuesday during his introductory press conference. "This building shook in some of the playoff series."

Ruff played 608 games with the Sabres from 1979-89, then returned to serve as head coach from 1997 to 2013. Buffalo made the playoffs eight times with him at the helm, including three trips to the conference finals and one to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Sabres extended their playoff drought to 13 seasons after missing out on the postseason by seven points. The last time they played beyond the regular season was in 2011 when Ruff was nearing the end of his first tour behind Buffalo's bench.

Ruff, whom the New Jersey Devils fired in early March, made it clear he didn't say yes right away when the Sabres called.

"I was questioning myself, 'Why would I do this?'" he said. "Then I came to a point, 'Why wouldn't I?' Because I'm a risk-taker. I think if there's no risk, there's no reward. I'm putting myself in that position."

Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams spoke to double-digit candidates after firing Don Granato last Tuesday but soon landed on Ruff as the right person for the job.

"I truly believe that he's the person to take us to the next level," Adams said. "Our players are craving it, we're excited about it, and the hard work begins now."

Ruff knows that shifting the Sabres' culture to a winning one won't be easy, but he believes he's a "much better coach" now than when he first left Buffalo.

"The only thing we can say is, when we hit camp, we're going to prove that we're going to get to the next level," Ruff said.

"I want (the players) to love playing here," he added. "I want them to love playing for each other, and I want them to love being a Buffalo Sabre for Sabres fans that I think are some of the greatest in the league. How are we gonna get there? We're going to have to earn it from Day 1. ... We're gonna have to step on the ice when the season starts and earn the respect of everybody."

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