Julien longest-tenured coach in East after Ruff fired

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Julien longest-tenured coach in East after Ruff fired

TAMPA The Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres have clearly had their hockey battles over the years. Hard feelings spilled over even in their first regular season game against each other this season when Sabres coach Lindy Ruff called a timeout late with a lead Bruins forward Brad Marchand called the move disrespectful in a game that had already been decided.

But those hard feelings for Ruffs methods dissolved on Wednesday morning when the team learned that the Buffalo Sabres had fired their longtime coach after a brutal start to the season.

The Sabres were last in the Northeast Division with a 6-10-1 record, had lost seven of their last 10 games, and dropped a heartbreaking loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night that set the stage for Ruff's sacking.

Ruff was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL after being hired way back in 1997 and took the Sabres to the conference finals four times and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Dallas Stars once in a losing effort.

Claude Julien paid respect to a fellow member of the coaching fraternity whose firing leaves the Bruins coach as the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference.

When you see a coach like that last that long behind the bench of one team, you have to be proud of his accomplishments. Ruff deserves a lot of praise, said Julien. Ive said all along if I last that long in place like Ruff then Id be extremely happy. He did a great job there.

I know he brought his team to the Finals that one year against Dallas with the controversial goal. That will always stick with the Sabres organization. He didnt always have the best teams, but he always got the best out of his players. Ive always said he was a good coach, and unfortunately those things happen in our game whether theyre fair or not.

Barry Trotz, Alain Vigneault and Mike Babcock all have been at their respective posts in Nashville, Vancouver and Detroit longer than Julien, but hes now the senior head coach among Eastern teams. Daniel Paille was the only Bruins skater to play under Ruffs tutelage in Buffalo, and had nothing but complimentary things to say about the longtime head coach.

He was obviously there for a number of years, but the team wasnt doing well. The coach is the easiest one to go after. Thats unfortunate, but its part of the game, said Paille. He definitely changed my perspective as a person and what I needed to achieve in my life and goals. He definitely helped out early on in my life with that.

Now the Sabres will move on to a new coach while looking for a spark, and Ruff may get a well-deserved rest after a nearly two-decade run as the head hockey man behind the Buffalo bench.

Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

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Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

It’s only a coincidence that it will air the same week that the Boston Bruins went Hollywood with their annual three-game road trip through California, but David Backes and his wife Kelly are going to get some solid TV time this weekend. The animal-loving couple are going to be featured Saturday night in the all-new Animal Planet special "Stars to the Rescue," which highlights the Backes family’s excellent work to ensure every animal has a ‘furever’ home.

The lifelong animal lovers have adopted five rescue pets that all made the move from St. Louis to Boston this summer, and launched Athletes for Animals in 2013, a non-profit organization supporting professional athletes and animal advocacy efforts. The 32-year-old Backes chose a Boston animal shelter as his first setting to meet with the Boston media this summer after signing with the Bruins in free agency, and spoke glowingly about his inspiration for marrying two of his passions: helping animals and sports.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," said Backes, the proud owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty and Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly). "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said, ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

The “Stars to the Rescue” special premieres on Saturday night at 8 pm on Animal Planet where there will be a full segment on the Backes family, but here’s a clip where Backes talks about his well-publicized involvement with a number of stray dog rescues during his 2014 Olympic Hockey stint with Team USA in Sochi, Russia.

Backes isn’t the only Boston athlete featured during the Animal Planet special as it also chronicles the stories of other well-known athletes and celebrities and the dogs they can't live without: Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, Baltimore Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley, Selma Blair, ESPN Correspondent Michelle Beadle, WNBA star Elena Delle Donne, former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and more. From training buddies to comforting companions, “Stars to the Rescue” shows first-hand how these celebrities first met their cute rescued canines and how their dogs have impacted and transformed their lives for the better.

What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win over Kings: Back on track

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What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win over Kings: Back on track

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