Vanek-less Sabres welcome Ruff, Stars back to Buffalo

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( - The Buffalo Sabres welcome a familiar face back to Western New York, as Lindy Ruff and the Dallas Stars visit the First Niagara Center on Monday night.

Ruff served as head coach of the Sabres from 1997-2003, making him the longest tenured coach in franchise history. That run ended, however, when Ruff was fired on Feb. 20 of last season and replaced with Ron Rolston.

Ruff led the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 before bowing out to the Stars, the same franchise that hired him as head coach over the summer. So far, Dallas has been up and down under Ruff, posting a 4-5-1 record, but that is considerably better than Buffalo's 2-10-1 mark in 2013-14,

One of Ruff's former players in Buffalo won't be with the Sabres on Monday, as Buffalo traded star winger Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders on Sunday. The deal landed the Sabres forward Matt Moulson and two draft picks, a first- rounder in 2014 and a second-round selection in 2015.

The 29-year-old Vanek, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2013-14 campaign, had four goals and five assists in 13 games for the Sabres this season. He has played all nine of his NHL seasons for the team since it drafted him No. 5 overall in 2003, scoring 254 goals with 243 assists in 598 games.

"I'd like to start by thanking Thomas Vanek for the contributions that he's made to our organization going back to his draft year, 2003 -- 10-plus years," Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said. "He's been an outstanding player, outstanding teammate, citizen. The organization and we wish him only the best going forward."

Moulson, also 29, has six goals and three assists in 11 games this season. He has 124 goals and 109 assists in 333 games for the Kings and Islanders in seven NHL seasons.

Ruff's Stars enter Monday having lost five of their last seven games and are coming off Saturday's shootout loss against the visiting Winnipeg Jets. Andrew Ladd tallied the only shootout goal as the Jets took a 2-1 decision at American Airlines Center.

Dallas' Jamie Benn started the shootout and skated wide right before coming back to the middle and hitting the post with a backhand shot. Olli Jokinen then tried to go five-hole on Kari Lehtonen but was denied.

Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec turned away Alex Chiasson's shot with his blocker on the Stars' second attempt. After Ladd put Winnipeg up with the forehand score, Ray Whitney skated in slowly but missed wide with his wrister to seal the win for the Jets.

Stephane Robidas netted his first goal of the season 6:36 into the third period to force overtime for the Stars. Lehtonen played well in defeat, stopping 37-of-38 shots faced, including six in the extra session.

"I didn't think we played a full 60 minutes," said Benn. "Kari (Lehtonen) gave us a chance to win that game and we didn't do our job."

Dallas is 1-4-0 on the road this season and the club has lost four straight as the guest since posting a victory at Winnipeg on Oct. 11. The Stars are on the road for two straight and will visit Montreal on Tuesday before hosting Colorado this Friday.

The Sabres, meanwhile, followed up their second win of the season, a 3-1 decision Friday at Florida, with a 3-2 regulation setback Saturday in Tampa. Martin St. Louis and Ondrej Palat scored less than two minutes apart late in the final period to boost the Lightning to the home win.

Vanek and Brian Flynn scored for the Sabres, while Ryan Miller made 36 saves in a losing effort.

Buffalo will try once again to win its first home game of the season tonight. The rebuilding Sabres are 0-6-1 at First Niagara Center in 2013-14 and have lost their last four home games in regulation.

The Sabres have dominated the Stars in recent years, taking six of the last seven encounters in this series. Dallas also is 0-5-1 with a tie in its last seven trips to Buffalo and hasn't won a regular season game in Western New York since Oct. 7, 1997.

Of course, the Stars did clinch their 1999 Stanley Cup title with a classic triple-overtime win in Game 6 at First Niagara Center, which was then known as Marine Midland Arena.