Ruff out as Sabres head coach

The Buffalo Sabres fired Lindy Ruff on Wednesday, parting ways with the winningest head coach in franchise history and the longest tenured bench boss in the NHL.

Ron Rolston, head coach of the Sabres' American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, will take over Ruff's duties on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.

"The hockey world knows how I and the entire Buffalo Sabres organization feel about Lindy Ruff, not only as a coach, but also as a person," Sabres owner Terry Pegula said in a statement. "His qualities have made this decision very difficult. I personally want Lindy to know that he can consider me a friend always."

Ruff, a former Sabres player and team captain who had served as head coach since July of 1997, was relieved of his duties following a 4-10-1 stretch that has dropped Buffalo into a tie for 11th place in the current Eastern Conference standings. The Sabres have also failed to reach the playoffs in three of the past five seasons since making two straight conference finals appearances in 2006 and 2007.

Buffalo also hasn't won a postseason series since losing to Ottawa in the Eastern finals in '07.

The 53-year-old Ruff amassed a 571-432-78-84 record in his 15 seasons with the Sabres and directed the team to the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals in his second year at the helm. He also earned the Jack Adams Award honoring the NHL's coach of the year for the 2005-06 campaign, when he guided Buffalo to a 52-24-6 record and a berth in the East finals.

Buffalo advanced to the playoffs nine times under Ruff and went to the Eastern Conference finals a total of four times, the first of which came in his debut season of 1997-98. The Sabres also captured Northeast Division titles in both 2006-07 and 2009-10 during his reign.

Ruff, who spent 10 of his 13 seasons as a player with Buffalo as well, had the second-longest active run of any head coach among the four major North American professional sports, trailing only Gregg Popovich of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs.

Rolston, the older brother of former NHL player Brian Rolston, had been Rochester's head coach since 2011-12 and compiled a 63-44-17 overall mark in his two seasons with the Americans.