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May 9, 2007

Darcy Regier

Lindy Ruff


Q. This will be your fourth trip to the conference finals in nine years here in Buffalo, have you changed in any way?
LINDY RUFF: You know, I think the game has changed. I think you change and evolve with the game. So it comes to things that happen in the game and I think you -- I mean, you adapt. There's some things that bother you less and bother you more.
I think you figure out what's most important in the game and you deal with that most of the time and you don't -- some of those little things that are inside you tend to let go.

Q. Darcy, I remember one time you told me back when we were talking bankruptcy and everything, you said, "As long as you're the General Manager, Lindy Ruff is your coach, whether you're winning or losing."
That can't be easy when things aren't going well to make that commitment to somebody and say this is the guy.
What made you think all along he's your coach, no matter what's going on?
DARCY REGIER: Actually, it has been pretty easy, and I've always viewed this as more of collaborative effort than I have a -- you know, what would arguably be viewed as a Coach/General Manager relationship. As I said a number of times, I came from a model that was Bill Torrey and Al Arbor. It was really the only model I ever worked under.
My experience has worked very well, so, you know, that's the only approach I've ever come from.

Q. Lindy, if the playoffs are a process, what has this team learned through its first two rounds?
LINDY RUFF: I think we've learned to deal with some adversity. We've battled through, you know, some real good situations. We've been up against it a couple times, and I think being a pretty young team for the most part, we've been able to respond when things haven't gone well, gone well inside games or maybe a game where we've been disappointed to bounce back and play a stronger game the next game.

Q. Lindy, Brian was kind of joking yesterday, "You used to be funny before you're ahead coach and now you're not."
DARCY REGIER: That's not funny.
LINDY RUFF: No comment.

Q. Has anything changed for you with Brian Murray?
LINDY RUFF: No, nothing has changed. I like Brian. We had a great relationship when I worked for him, and he actually does have a pretty good sense of humor, but, you know, we had good success down there in Florida. We had a terrific run.
When you go through something like that -- I think the words that echo in my head, the one thing he did say when we went to the finals, "Let's make sure we have fun and enjoy this because it doesn't happen very often. And I think he's speaking from a voice of experience, that it is extremely tough to get there, whether you're a General Manager, whether you're a coach, and we were a pretty tight-knit group down there when we went threw that whole process to get to the finals against Colorado.

Q. You said that after Game 4, "Have fun." Is that part of what turned things around for you in the Ranger Series, the guys -- you switched up the lines, too, but did they start having if fun out there?
LINDY RUFF: Fun and winning come together. When you win, you have fun. We lost a couple tough games. When you're losing, you tend to worry a lot more about a lot of different things. I wanted to put that worry aside and just reassure them that we worked hard all year long. The point being we worked hard all year long to end up with home ice advantage.
It was going to be a best of 3 where home ice was in our favor, and let's just go out and play our games and part of playing our game is going to be in front of our home fans, which gets you jacked up.
I thought we may have played our best game -- our best game with the toughest results that took the longest to achieve.

Q. Is there a bit of role reversal from last year? They were kind of a team last year that people had predicted would be in the finals and certainly most people were -- lot of people were saying is that about you.
LINDY RUFF: I don't feel that way. We've been two teams that have battled throughout the year that -- you know, said they've had a little bit of the upper hand through the regular season.
You know, even late or middle of the year we were dealing with some injuries. We didn't have the personnel we have now, and you hope that going into the series with a complete lineup that you're a better team; that we can turn the tables in that situation, but you know, they were obviously the team to beat last year and we've been the team to beat all year long. And I look at their record in the last 40 games is as good as anybody's record in the league.
They've been better. The last 40 games they were better than us. It's a pretty tight race the whole year long.

Q. Lindy, this team has come together last two years. The overall just team chemistry top to bottom, was that anything you had to kind of jump start as this team, you know, the faces on this team came together or did these guys have that attitude? It's kind of unbelievable how unselfish every single guy is.
LINDY RUFF: I think it's just the result of bringing a lot of good people together. A lot of these guys have grown up playing together with each other in Rochester. They've come from our system. They like playing for each other. People that we have brought in have been very good -- been very good people even before the players. They fit in the room. They've enjoyed walking into a room where everybody gets along and everybody works so hard for each other.
From my front that part has been easy. We brought in a lot of players that have been real good character players that it's almost been seem less.

Q. Did the lock-out year give both of you a great chance with everything you were able to see, and did with those players in Rochester to really know what you had in on your hands?
LINDY RUFF: I know from myself it gave me an opportunity to go and spend some time with some players and not really a head coaching role but just sort of an assistant coach, have fun, get to know them and spend a lot of time with them.
I think through that you realize we had a lot of good players, and I think when that frenzy coming on the lockout came along, we liked what we had for the most part.

Q. Darcy, when you see what you've gotten out of Dainius Zubrus, have you gotten more than what you thought when you traded for him on the ice and in the locker room?
DARCY REGIER: He has. You can only know so much when you trade for a player. Now, I'll go to what Lindy said. I think that, you know, we put a tremendous emphasis on the quality of the person, and it matters a lot.
I think that, you know -- and you put an emphasis on if you have players on your team who know those players because they can help you a lot as to whether it's going to work in the dressing room. And I think, you know -- these aren't my words but I agree with them. If you get your dressing room right, it does an awful lot for what happens on the ice.
And then beyond that, I think that Lindy has done a terrific job, the coaching staff has done a terrific job fitting him in. He's not playing his natural position or certainly not the position he played in Washington, and he has arguably gotten better with each game.

Q. Lindy, why do you have co-captain and not the traditional one guy with the C?
LINDY RUFF: Well, the history of that was coming out of the lockout, we had -- as a coaching staff, we felt we had two players that were represented our team in real good fashion and the idea just came up to make them co-captain, to let them help each other, become real good leaders on the team and they both lead in different ways.
They're both different players in my eyes, but they're both very good leaders for us, and we just felt we had those two players represented.
I don't know if you call it a gamble. I don't think it was a gamble. I think we wanted to spread that leadership out, and it's worked out real well, and I think part of that falls again that they're both good people and they're able to share that responsibility.

Q. Have you ever seen Chris Drury rattled?
LINDY RUFF: Yes and no.

Q. Good answer.
LINDY RUFF: I'm not -- something from the inside, not on the outside.

Q. When you ask him if he's injured, then he gets rattled.
LINDY RUFF: Doesn't want to practice or play.

Q. Lindy, regarding Afinogenov, do you think with what happened in the last round, his coming out and scoring an overtime goal, that with that or anything else in mind, his game is where you want it for the -- what might be the second half of the playoffs here? Do you still have concerns that he's maybe he's not on the right page?
LINDY RUFF: No. You know what, there's -- there was areas of his game that, you know, obviously disturbed me, and it wasn't -- I'll say it again. It was probably the toughest decision I made in a playoff series, but there's some outlying factors that I'm not going to comment on right now that went into that decision.
But what I felt, what I saw in the last couple of games is Max is back to full form. He's skating and creating chances.
He was using his speed. He was as good as he was for the most part during the year. So I think that we need him to play like that. We need that line to be a very dangerous line for us.

Q. How do guys like Tony and Henrik develop into the shut down defense pair that they are today?
LINDY RUFF: I think if you look at it, you've got a pair that where Tony is maybe a little bit more on the physical side, but they're both very good defense, defensemen. They both have very good mobility. They both have very good puck skills, which Henrik can use his legs to get out of trouble or, you know, save plays or defend plays.
And they both have, you know, good vision for the game which means that a lot of times when under duress, they can make that real tight play that allows them to exit the zone. They're good defenders. They've got good reach. They've got a lot of what good defenders have, that's puck skills and good reach and stick on stick and all the little stuff that if you want to be a good wing man that plays against top lines, have to take away other teams' top players.

Q. Will this be their biggest challenges against the Senators who scored 23 points against the Devils last series?
LINDY RUFF: Every challenge is big. Jaromir Jagr was a big challenge. That was a big challenge. Nylander is a very good player. He still played well. Heatley and Spezza are all good players. We're asking these guys to, you know, do a good job of limiting those opportunities and your next opponent always your biggest challenge.

Q. Do you think you're a little bit underrated in Ryan Miller and winning the playoffs and to beat the Rangers, you really needed all six of those guys going?
LINDY RUFF: We don't underrate them. We know on the inside what we have, and I think we really have six universal defensemen that can play in almost any situation. We're okay with any of them on the ice against anybody. They can be offense defensemen at times and real found defensive defensemen. They fit how we want to play with the mobility that all six of those defensemen have. We're not asking them to play an easy game.
It's a tough game when you're asked to be involved in the play up-front and make sure you don't get caught going back the other direction.

Q. Darcy, when you were in the process, pre-lockout, putting the pieces together for this team, anticipating some of the changes to the game that might take place, is this what you had envisioned as far as, you know, a group coming together the way that it has?
DARCY REGIER: That's far too eloquent.
We went to the playoffs in '98 and '99 and then went through a rebuilding period. Your rebuilding period is driven in large part by the economics of the league at the time and the only option you have available, and it's to in large part to do things the old fashioned way. You got to draft and you have to develop and the focus on, you know, was on the amateur staff to draft competitive players, good people that were competitive and for us to develop them.
You know, a lot of it really is about getting good people, keeping them together. The things that Lindy talked about, maybe the biggest of all is to respect each other's gifts and then to do the tough part, which is to wait.
You get some breaks along the way. The game gets changed and maybe move your group of players a little closer to the game than what might have been otherwise, but, you know, if you're lucky enough to plan well enough, you get some additional luck from it.
I think it's -- you know, it's things like the values and the principles you're going to function under and then taking the time.

Q. Darcy, having been fortunate enough to have been able to keep this group together in for two seasons and having them back in the Eastern Conference Finals, do you, however, fear that the window is closing on this group?
DARCY REGIER: No. No. I think you enjoy where you are. You know that challenges are coming down the road. You have a sense of what they are. You do the best you can with whatever you're faced with and it starts with ownership, you know.
Tom, Larry, we get tremendous support from the ownership. That translates to our fans. Everyone reaps the benefits of those types of things, and you know, the challenge is to win games now and win a championship and to enjoy doing it, and the rest of the stuff will come.

Q. How did you leave things with Chris and Danny in terms of their contract situation? Did you just say at some point "We'll talk after the year?"
DARCY REGIER: Yeah. The focus has just been so much on the playoffs, even on the regular season and the playoffs, and it hasn't been anyone's strong desires to get into contract negotiations.
So it's something that we've left for after the season and we'll address it then.

Q. Does that include you guys, too? Does that include you?
DARCY REGIER: Yeah, it does. I've had very good discussions and conversations with Larry and I don't foresee a problem going forward. Yeah, same for us.

Q. In regard to Tim Connolly, given the convergence of development since he's been back and the opportunity of playing with Daniel Briere, what do you expect from him?
LINDY RUFF: We're hoping for obviously a real good series out of him. I think his play with each game has gotten better. We've been able to see the improvement in his game.
I think his endurance inside the game has gotten better, even inside of shifts. From the standpoint of -- you know, I watch him strictly from, you know, zero to 40 seconds and what happens and how soon he changes or how long he may stay out on a shift.
From when he first got back to now, he's maintaining a pretty high level and is able to sustain that for that 35, 40 seconds.
His shifts early on were pretty short. He made sure that he wasn't going to get caught. A lot of times it was, you know, 20, 25 seconds and the next center man would get the bulk of his shift plus a little bit of Tim's.
I think the rest between games has been good, the days off have been good for him. You know, he's still at times is still sore just, has muscle soreness in different places from being inside the grind and being hit and being run over and him hitting people. And when he needs a day off, or he thinks he needs a day off, he let's us know and we give him the day off.

Q. When you had the element of having maybe a chip on his shoulder in regard to missed opportunities last year, missed time, trying to maybe make up for lost time by making this as special as he can, are all the ingredients there for a breakout type time for him?
LINDY RUFF: You know, I think that part would be tough because you'd like to have a breakout time when you're in your absolutely best shape and you've trained for a heck of a season, and he's doing it on -- he's doing it on training after being out for nine months, basically doing it on four months of training, which I think it's incredible where he's at right now.
I don't think it has anything to do with the chip on his shoulder. He's having fun playing. I think he's just so excited to be beyond where he was at that, you know, it was getting depressing for him for a good period of time and now he's just having fun playing.

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