MONTREAL — So, the smoothest road to the 2014 Sochi Olympics for Canadiens goalie Carey Price and defenceman P.K. Subban became clear at noon on Tuesday, precisely 100 days before the opening ceremony in Russia.
“If they play bad tonight,” Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said, a grin working at the corners of his mouth, “I’ll give them a chance. I’ll give them a real good look.”
Ruff, an assistant coach on Canada’s Sochi staff, was pulling legs — though a dismal effort by Price and Subban against his Stars at the Bell Centre Tuesday night would have been most welcome.
The Stars jumped out to a 4-1 lead Monday and hung on for a nail-biting victory, an almost perfect night all around in that Matt Moulson, acquired from the Islanders for Vanek, scored twice for the Sabres.
Where it’s common for a player who’s facing a former club to quietly put a pot of cash up for teammates, to be shared for a win, Ruff said there was no monetary incentive in Buffalo.
“The line from Caddyshack, ‘There’ll be no tip, but on your death bed you will receive total consciousness?’ ” he said, laughing again. “It was something like that.
“And they get an extra day off somewhere down the road. It’s a pretty good deal.”
There won’t be many days off this season for Ruff, not between his work with the Stars and role with Team Canada.
For now, he’s spending very little time on the Olympic portfolio, certainly less than head coach Mike Babcock of Detroit.
“It’s just being ready when we’re scheduled to have a call later on,” Ruff said of a talk to come with Babcock and the St. Louis Blues’ Ken Hitchcock, Ruff’s fellow assistant coach, all three returning from Canada’s Vancouver 2010 gold-medal effort.
“It’s watching the guys, taking game notes on how the players we’re considering are playing so that, if asked, you can put your two cents in.”
Ruff enthused about a “great” adjustment to his new life in Dallas.
“The fit with Jim has been awesome,” he said of GM Jim Nill. “Jim’s been terrific. And once you get behind the bench or on the ice for practice, hockey is hockey. I don’t look outside the Plexiglas and worry about hockey in Texas, I just look at hockey as being hockey.
“Somebody said change is good and I really believe that. How Jim built their team (in Detroit as GM of the Red Wings), the type of players, his really trying to get this team where we want it and how we want to play — I’m finding it a real good experience.
“It’s all new. I think sometimes that helps anybody.”
What won’t hurt Ruff will be for his squad to get on a bit of a roll.
The Stars having arrived in Montreal with a 5-5-1 record, second-last in the West.
“We’ve got to become a better team and, to a man, we know that,” he said. “(Tuesday) will be a night we have to go out and try to show it.”
It was Olympic hopefuls named Price and Subban who helped send the visitors home on the short end of the score, blissfully unaware that a poor performance was their better route to Sochi.
But Ruff was kidding. Wasn’t he?
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