Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) - The Buffalo Sabres got a nice surprise at practice on Sunday as head coach Ralph Krueger exited the NHL's COVID-19 Protocols and joined practice for a few minutes. After speaking to assistant coach Steve Smith, who ran Sunday's practice, he went up into the stands to sit with assistant coach Don Granato, who they’re being cautious with.
Krueger loves being at the rink, and said getting to the arena was a pleasure.
“Just when the players arrived and we passed each other and getting out on the ice for a few minutes, just gives you so much energy back," Krueger said following Sunday's session. "It was outstanding to be back on the ice, be around the players and the staff.”
Despite testing positive himself for COVID-19, Krueger is relieved that his wife didn’t get the virus.
“I had moderately severe symptoms. I never did end up having a fever, but I did end up with a lot of aches and sleeping and fatigue for more than a week,” Krueger said.
The 61-year-old said he is scared by the experience.
Krueger wouldn’t say if he’d be behind the bench Monday, when the 2020-21 season resumes, but I know he will be involved in some way, shape or form.
“Today was an excellent day to spend with staff and with players," Krueger said. "I went soft on the ice, but trying to go through a regular day and then we’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning.”
All of this went down on Jan. 30 and 31 against the New Jersey Devils. Many are blaming the National Hockey League or the Devils for what happened with the COVID-19 outbreak. Krueger has his own thoughts on the matter.
“When you see how many players on both teams were symptomatic and staff members too, we clearly had a rough weekend there," Krueger said. "For me, I like to be constructive and I’m happy the NHL has been constructive as possible in learning from the experiences that we had.
“What happened on that weekend it’s quite clear that the information that we had just a few days after and what the NHL had at that point, there was a big divide between what they knew and what they then knew.”
If this lineup you see at the bottom of the article is the lineup for Monday, the Sabres would still need to add two players to the taxi squad, in addition to Jacob Bryson and Jonas Johansson. I also wondered if Buffalo gets a player or two off the NHL's COVID-19 Protocols list Monday, could they go straight into the lineup?
“We treat each individual coming back differently, because the symptoms were different with different players," Krueger said. "The timing was different, as to coming into games directly versus coming into practice is certainly a different factor.
“We need to monitor the role of the player in the game. Could we only put that player in for a seven-, eight-, nine-minute stretch to integrate him, or is that worth it or not? We need to be sure we’re well-covered on our specialty teams. The penalty killing roll that Tobias Rieder and Curtis Lazar leave open is something we need to fill, so this lineup will be definitely close to what you’re going to see tomorrow, but I would expect one or two changes.”
OK, I’m willing to speculate. If Krueger is worried about the penalty kill, I’d expect Rasmus Asplund here, and maybe Steven Fogarty would stay on the taxi squad.
The top power play had Sam Reinhart back on it for Rasmus Ristolainen. The second PP featured Kyle Okposo for Dylan Cozens.
Rasmus Dahlin also returned to practice. He was the last player the Sabres had put into COVID-19 protocols. Dahlin said on Sunday he was not sick, and that he was negative from the start.
Dahlin was living with Casey Mittelstadt before they went into quarantine.
“As soon as we got the news from the team, we moved away from each other, so we’re not close,” Dahlin said.
Nobody has confirmed that Mittelstadt has tested positive, but he is on the NHL's COVID-19 list.
"They put me on the Protocol because I was a close contact, but I tested negative all week, so I’m ready to go," Dahlin said.
Hall – Staal – Reinhart
Smith – Eakin – Okposo
Skinner – Eichel – Olofsson
Thompson – Sheahan – Fogarty
Dahlin – Miller (Bryson)
Davidson – Borgen
Irwin – Jokiharju
Photo: Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres)