Lindy Ruff's 16-year run in charge of the Buffalo Sabres has come to an end after the long-serving coach was fired last night.
Ron Rolston, coach of the Buffalo's affiliate side Rochester Americans, will serve as interim coach of the NHL team for the rest of the season, starting with Thursday's game against Toronto,
The 53-year-old becomes the first coach to be fired this season, and was the second-longest tenured coach in North American pro sports behind only Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.
Darcy Regier, Sabres general manager, said allowing Rolston to coach the rest of the season "will provide us and him the opportunity to get to know each other, and if things go well, he'll have the opportunity to become the head coach."
The moves followed a loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday that left the Sabres with a 6-10-1 mark and at the bottom of the North-east Division with 13 points.
Ruff, who also played most of his NHL career in Buffalo, began coaching the Sabres in 1997-98 and was the longest-tenured coach in the league.
"The hockey world knows how I and the entire Buffalo Sabres organisation feel about Lindy Ruff not only as a coach but also as a person," Sabres owner Terry Pegula said in a statement.
"His long tenure with the Sabres has ended. His qualities have made this decision very difficult.
"I personally want Lindy to know that he can consider me a friend always."
Ruff, whose career ties to Buffalo spanned 25 years, had a regular-season record of 571-432-84 along with 78 ties and led the team to the 1999 Stanley Cup finals.
Winner of the Jack Adams trophy as coach of the year in 2006, Ruff was fired by general manager Regier several hours after putting the team through its paces in a practice on Wednesday morning.
Jakub Voracek scored a hat-trick as the Philadelphia Flyers defeated NHL Atlantic Division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-5.
The sides met in last season's Eastern Conference play-offs and wasted no time getting the scoreboard moving, finishing level at 2-2 after the first period.
Voracek scored his first to give Philadelphia the lead in the second period and won it for his side when he notched his side's sixth goal late in normal time.
The Los Angeles Kings claimed a 3-1 triumph over the Calgary Flames.
It was the Kings' second win in as many days, achieved courtesy of a strong performance from backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who made 26 saves.
Jeff Carter, meanwhile, got his eighth goal of the campaign as Los Angeles moved into a positive win-loss record of 7-6 for the season.
The remaining fixture saw the Colorado Avalanche grab a 1-0 overtime win over the St Louis Blues.
David Jones prevented a shoot-out when he struck with only 16 seconds left in the additional period.
Semyon Varlamov kept his second shutout of the season.
Meanwhile Jannik Hansen was suspended for one game without pay by the NHL last night for an aggressive hit on Chicago's Marian Hossa.
The Vancouver Canucks forward delivered a forearm to the back of Hossa's head during the third period of Chicago's 4-3 shoot-out victory that left the Blackhawks winger flat out on the ice before he returned to the locker room for the remainder of the game.
Hansen was assessed a minor penalty for roughing.
The incident was particularly unfortunate for Hossa, who was also knocked out of a playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes last year after sustaining an illegal hit.
The Blackhawks said that Hossa appeared to be in better condition this time compared to the Phoenix hit, when he suffered a season-ending concussion.
Hansen had claimed that the hit came as a result of him pursuing the puck but after a hearing with the league, the NHL took action.
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