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Carlyle and Ruff ready to coach at upcoming NHL all-star game in Dallas

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Carlyle and Ruff ready to coach at upcoming NHL all-star game in Dallas

The Canadian Press
By:

During a conference call Monday, each said they had great respect for the job the other has done as a head coach. They will get to face each other at the NHL all-star game on Jan. 24 in Dallas.

Carlyle, coach of the league-leading Anaheim Ducks, will be behind the Western Conference bench while Ruff, in his ninth year as coach of the Buffalo Sabres, will coach the Eastern Conference. Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators is the West's assistant coach while Bob Hartley of the Atlanta Thrashers is the East's assistant.

"Back when Lindy and I played, he was in Buffalo and I was in Pittsburgh and we were rivals in the sense that Buffalo was a bus ride and that was the only team we bussed to," Carlyle said as both men took part in a conference call Monday.

"Lindy was a competitive individual who went out and worked hard and committed to his team. Obviously, as a coach, he's done a tremendous job in Buffalo. I look forward one day to talking about it."

The two men earned all-star jobs by posting the best points-per-game percentage in their respective conferences in the first half of the season.

"I have respect for Randy," said Ruff. "He was a good competitor and he's a very intense coach.

"We're not friends or anything. but he has certainly done an exceptional job with Anaheim."

The starting lineups for the all-star game are decided by fan voting. They are to be announced Tuesday night.

A win over Detroit on Sunday snapped a four-game losing run and gave the Ducks a 29-9-6 mark and 64 points in 44 games. The Sabres are 30-9-3 for 63 points in 42 matches so far.

So far, it has been a two-team race for the President's Trophy, awarded to the club with the most points in the regular season. Not that it's a prize they pay much attention to.

"Is it important? In the big scheme, it's not what we're after," said Ruff. "But on the way to trying to win the Stanley Cup, if the President's Trophy gets in the way, I'm fine with that."

As players, the two men had little in common.

Carlyle played in four all-star games during his 18-year career as one of the league's best defencemen with Toronto, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg from 1976-77 to 1992-93. He won a Norris Trophy as top defenceman in 1981 with the Penguins.

Ruff was an honest if unexceptional forward for Buffalo and the New York Rangers from 1979-80 to 1990-91, putting up 300 points in 691 NHL games.

He's had more impact behind the bench. Ruff won the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year last season. He also coached the World Team at the 1999 all-star game in Tampa, when it pitted the top North Americans against the best Europeans.

While Carlyle's Ducks are built on star players, particularly the league's best defence duo of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, Ruff's Sabres win with a team-oriented game based on speed and offence. They lead the league with 164 goals.

"I try to use the strengths of the players," Ruff said. "Our team is built with a lot of skilled offensive players and we're trying to play to that strength.

"I think the players have had a lot of fun playing the last couple of years and it shows in our game."

Carlyle's squad has been scrambling of late due to injuries to Pronger (broken foot), defenceman Francois Beauchemin (spleen), goaltender Jean-Francois Giguere (groin) and forward Todd Marchant (abdominal strain).

However, Anaheim remains the favourite in the West with its mix of veteran stars and young talent like Corey Perry, Andy McDonald and Ryan Getzlaf.

Carlyle recalls all-star games as an occasion for players to have fun and he expects coaching to be the same except that he is "a little older and with a lot less hair."

He said his first all-star game was the best.

"I was a young player and it was an eye-opener to come out to the game and get to know the other players in the league," he said. "I specifically remember meeting Charlene Tilton from (the television show) Dallas. That was quite an event for a young kid from Sudbury."

Ruff calls it a "very lightly structured game. I think the competitiveness of the players will take over."

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Carlyle and Ruff ready to coach at upcoming NHL all-star game in Dallas