When the NHL released its 2013-14 schedule, first-year Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff likely circled Monday's game against the Buffalo Sabres on his calendar. The game took on added importance for the coach when he failed to pick up his 600th career win in Friday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The stage was thus set for Ruff to reach the milestone mark against his former team, and his new squad was up to the task, beating the Sabres 3-2 on Monday to give Ruff win No. 600.
Before he was fired by Buffalo 17 games into the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Ruff was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, having spent 15 seasons behind the Sabres' bench. He compiled a W-L-T-OTL record of 571-432-78-84 during his time with the Sabres, highlighted by a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1999 and Eastern Conference Final showings in 2006 and 2007.
Ruff was hired by Dallas in June and has the team fighting for a wild-card spot in the hotly contested Western Conference. The Stars are one of three teams tied for the eighth and final playoff spot at 66 points, though they currently hold the edge with fewer games played than the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks.
Life after Ruff hasn't been easy for the Sabres, as the team removed the interim tag from coach Ron Rolston heading into this season, only to fire him Nov. 13 after stumbling to a 4-15-1 start. Buffalo has since played more competitively under new interim coach Ted Nolan, who had the Sabres riding a season-high three-game win streak (two of which occurred after the Ryan Miller trade) before Monday's loss.
As for Ruff, the Stars boss is one of just 12 coaches in NHL history with 600 regular-season wins, and he's still working his way up the leaderboard.
Assuming he's back in Dallas next season, Ruff will likely pass Jacques Martin (613 wins), Jacques Lemaire (617), Bryan Murray (620), Ken Hitchcock (621) and Ron Wilson (648) to move into sixth place on the all-time coaching wins list. With 21 games remaining in 2013-14, he even has a chance to catch Martin by the end of this season.
Of course, as his resume grows thicker and thicker, Ruff's lack of a Stanley Cup will only stand out more.