Toronto • James van Riemsdyk kept the Buffalo Sabres reeling on Thursday night.
Van Riemsdyk scored twice to power the Toronto Maple Leafs past the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 in Ron Rolston’s first game as an NHL head coach.
Rolston, who until Wednesday was the head coach of the AHL’s Rochester Americans, was hired as the Sabres interim coach following the club’s decision to fire Lindy Ruff. Ruff, who also played 10 seasons for Buffalo, had been behind the club’s bench since 1997 and was the NHL’s longest-tenured head coach.
Prior to arriving in Rochester, Rolston spent seven seasons as a head coach with USA Hockey’s national program, leading the under-18 squad to three gold medals and a silver in four world championship appearances.
Van Riemsdyk played for Rolston for two years, earning a world championship gold medal in 2006 before getting silver the following year.
“He’s a big reason for the success I’ve been able to have as a hockey player,” van Riemsdyk said. “He really kind of instilled that confidence and trust that he had in me as a player and he put me out there in pretty much every situation in every game and allowed me to grow.
“There was obviously some growing pains my first year, but the second year I was able to blossom under his tutelage and I feel thankful for everything he taught me.”
But Rolston could only watch as the Sabres dropped their third straight and fifth of their past six games.
“I thought we played well in parts of the game,” Rolston said. “I didn’t like our second period — obviously, it was the turning point.
“We had too many turnovers, we were forcing things, long shifts in the defensive zone. It was the difference.”
Anisimov injured • The Columbus Blue Jackets had success on the ice and got some good news off it.
Vinny Prospal scored with 24.7 seconds left, capping a comeback that lifted Columbus to a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
The game took a frightening turn early in the second period when Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov was taken off the ice on a stretcher after being struck in the head by Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey. Anisimov, a 24-year-old Russian, was alert and able to move when he was taken to Detroit Medical Center as a precaution because he said his head hurt.
“He’s alert and stable,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “Obviously, that’s great news.”
Anisimov was skating toward the back of Detroit’s net alongside Red Wings defenseman Ian White when he lost his balance as Quincey landed a blow to his head that didn’t seem intentional.