Tag Archives: Ralph Krueger

Post-Game Report: 2/23 vs. Winnipeg

Final Score

1st 2nd 3rd OT SO Final SOG
1 0 0 1 26
1 0 1 2 25

Game Summary

Event Summary


Top Notes

  • Today’s win joined Buffalo’s 5-2 win at Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon to give the Sabres their first back-to-back sweep of the season.
  • The Sabres are now 7-2-2 in afternoon games this season, including a 6-2-0 record at home.
  • Jonas Johansson stopped 25 of 26 shots today (.962) to earn his first NHL win in his third career start.
  • With two goals today, Kyle Okposo logged his 16th career multi-goal game and his first since March 31, 2018 at Nashville.
  • Okposo now has points in four straight games (4+1), marking his longest point streak since he tallied points in four straight games from Nov. 10 to 17, 2017.
  • Zemgus Girgensons recorded two assists today to give him three points (1+2) in two games this weekend.
  • Brandon Montour posted an assist today. He now has four points (2+2) and a plus-8 rating in his last five games.
  • Henri Jokiharju appeared in his 100th NHL game today.


Today’s Goaltenders

Today’s Stats
Team Goaltender Decision GA SA
Jets Hellebuyck L 2 25
Sabres Johansson W 1 26
Updated Season Stats
Team Goaltender Record SV% GAA
Jets Hellebuyck 26-20-5 .918 2.72
Sabres Johansson 1-1-1 .910 2.28


Post-Game Audio

Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger

Sabres forward Kyle Okposo

Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons

Sabres defneseman Jake McCabe

Sabres goaltender Jonas Johansson

Jets head coach Paul Maurice

Jets forward Cody Eakin

Jets forward Blake Wheeler

Jets forward Jansen Harkins

Ralph Krueger Interview – Howard and Jeremy (2/20/20)

February 20, 2020


Ralph Krueger

Howard and Jeremy (8:30 a.m.)

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/02-20-sabres-head-coach-ralph-krueger (15:48)


Howard Simon: Ralph, it’s Howard and Jeremy. Good morning. How are you doing today?

Ralph Krueger: Good morning, good morning. Back at ‘er. We’re good, we’re good here, thank you.


HS: We had Marty Biron on, on the last segment, Ralph. We had a long conversation about Jeff Skinner. So let me start from there. We talked about his drought and line combinations last week, so I guess one thing we’re curious about now, in terms of Jeff’s effort, is it still there or do you believe his game has dropped? He’s having some issues; maybe the weight of the drought is now affecting him in his on-ice performance?

RK: That seems to be a topic that you like to discuss. There are always different levels of solutions that go on here. When a player is looking for his best game, you go through video, you go through the psychology of it, you go through multiple levels of teaching and coaching. We’re doing this with multiple players at the same time; that’s what coaching staffs do and that’s what we do. We try to improve as a team every day. Some of the buttons we try to push, we speak about, and some of them we keep internal. There’s no question that everybody’s working hard at trying to find the right solution. It always has to happen in combination with what’s best for the team. The scoring chances are there. When his shooting percentage is down, it’s four percent from a career average, you try to work on why is that? What are the better ways to do it? For us, it’s just continued hard work at solutions. That’s what we do as a team, whether PP’s not working, whether we’re taking goals on the rush, or whether and individual player’s not producing to the numbers he’d like to, you try to work with them on pathways that they can get there. That’s what we’re doing with Jeff.


HS: I know you talk a lot with — not just Jeff, but any player on your roster — about how they play away from the puck and how that is a very important thing you look for as a coach. In particular with Jeff in this instance, how is he doing? I know you said you break down video with everybody. What is he doing in terms of play away from the puck and how would that affect maybe an overall performance in your eyes?

RK: Well I have never, and I will not discuss individual tactic in the public. That’s not something I do on any other player, so I’m not going to do it around Jeff. Of course, when a player is not producing, nobody’s happy. The player’s not happy, we’re not happy, and we’re trying to find the solutions and we work hard at it. There are internal things and analyses that, in respect of what we do here to try to make the whole as powerful as possible, we need to keep inside. We keep it inside. I enjoy every day that I coach the Buffalo Sabres. It’s always a challenge. I enjoy the individual challenges. I enjoy the team challenge, as the whole staff here does. A lot of the work we do stays internal, and on this one it stays right there.


HS: Sixty games into your first season, in terms of the overall performance of your team, are they playing the game the way you want them to play? Are you seeing it more consistently? I guess I’m asking you how much work still needs to be done to get to where you’d like them to be.

RK: I think everybody know we’ve won four of our last five games, or had points in five of the last six games, so we definitely have had streaky moments, through the season, of success. And we’ve had moments where we would like to have had more points and needed to get more to be in the position that we’d like to be in right now, which we’re not. We’re not happy with where we’re at right now and we’re fighting to keep contact. We’ve got opportunity here, if we can get points in five of the next six again to edge closer to where we want to be. But overall, we’re pleased with the group’s engagement in attempting to learn the game that we need to play on a consistent basis. Are these habits 100 percent ingrained already? No. Are they working hard to have these habits part of our normal execution? Yes. Again, we have gone through a good phase here. We’ve got some bodies back now. We’re really, really not pleased with what happened in Ottawa the other night. We have a chance to react now against Pittsburgh on Saturday. We do and that’s what we’re going to work towards, to get another good phase going, another good streak going here because we’re going to need a few of those in the next few games. But overall, we love the work of the players. We love the engagement of the players. And the understanding of the kind of game we need to play, I think, is quite clear and it’s just the mental strength and the ability to do it on a daily basis in the National Hockey League takes time. We feel much more good than bad right now.


Jeremy White: Ralph, going back to the previous conversation a little bit, not specifically about Jeff Skinner, but about your top two lines and your efforts to find goal scoring. One of things we talked about with Marty there was that when it comes to your scoring forwards, you do have three pretty good scoring forwards on one line in [Sam] Reinhart, [Jack] Eichel and [Victor] Olofsson. Jeff is a little bit odd man out with that. With regard to Sam Reinhart, Jason Botterill has said on this station before, he believes Reinhart can drive his own line. Have you and Jason talked about that? About the idea of maybe Reinhart gets a chance to do that, because if you’re looking for scoring from two lines, I think most would say anybody can be productive with Jack Eichel, for the most part, maybe not anybody, but Reinhart’s an important part of that. Have you thought about Reinhart getting a look at trying to drive things the way that Jack drives a line?


RK: First of all, definitely not anybody can be productive anywhere in the National Hockey League. You need synergies. The Eichel-Reinhart-Olofsson line is one of the elite five lines, for me, in the National Hockey League. We’ve got an unbelievable asset there with Victor Olofsson back scoring three goals in his first two games back off of a one-month injury. He has synergy there. Sam having a career season, Jack having a career season, there’s no question that you do not take something that powerful and throw it away. It’s something that we can build a future on. These players are 24 and younger and that’s exciting for us. What we need is we need secondary scoring like the elite teams in the NHL have that ability. We need to find a way to create some power in behind that line and that’s what we’re working on. There’s definitely arguments to look at different formations when we’re not in a playoff position, which everybody out there is reaching for and wants us to be, but we also have to see the powerful nature of that line and their 20-plus minutes on the ice together and what that gives us. We have enough skill in our other forwards to get something going and we’re working on that as hard as we can right now.


HS: I know you think we’re going to belabor the Skinner point, and we brought it with you last week, but the power of the line…

RK: Now why would I think that?

HS: [Laughs] Because we brought this up last week.

JW: I was off last week.

HS: You mention the power that you have, right. Because I asked you last week about maybe moving Reinhart, you basically said the same thing, “Why would I want to break it up?” But now I’m going to factor in the third guy: With Olofsson, Ralph, Skinner with Eichel was a powerful thing. Jeff Skinner had his highest season in goals, I know you weren’t here, but he had a career high in goals. So that was a powerful combination.

RK: And you were happy with the team’s results last year?

HS: Well I’m not happy with the team’s results this year. You’re probably not making the playoffs, Ralph. No offense. You have a guy that’s making a lot of money to score goals and is having a career-worst year, would Olofsson as good? Is he talented enough to say, “Okay, let me flip it. Olfosson’s okay away from Eichel. He can succeed. It’s not a matter of ‘he’s only scoring because he’s with Eichel, he would be talented enough if I moved him away'”?

RK: We can philosophically discuss this. We spend four hours every morning before even before even the players arrive at the rink here as coaches looking at footage and analyzing everything in and out. We don’t have time to discuss all of those experiences with everybody. Somewhere there needs to be a trust in what we see and how we’re doing out best here to try to maximize what we can do as a group. Again, I want to refer to the run of late and the energy that we have. The Ottawa game definitely dampened the spirit in the surroundings, but we need to take courage from what we did against Toronto here at home and games of that nature and how the game that we want to play on a consistent basis showed up there to neutralize one of the best offensive teams in the league. We can discuss — there’d be hundreds of different decisions that we make here that we can try to tear apart in detail, and the way we put our lines together is certainly one of them. It’s difficult to explain all those details and I can only say we are trying to maximize the potential of this group. We are not there as yet. We will continue to work on that.


JW: One thing in terms of maximizing results, Ralph, I think something that’s gone very well I think: Early in the year, Rasmus Dahlin had a little bit of a — maybe a sophomore hiccup. I think fans observing him wondered, “Is Dahlin struggling?” There was a little bit of time and then he kind of figured it out. I would say he’s playing pretty well, he’s pretty darn good. He’s been great. For you, you look at a player, you’re only getting your hands on any player so far with this organization for 60 games. You talk a lot about habits, and positive habits. With Dahlin, is that an example you would say where you tried to instill some habits in him and it took a little bit of time but then, boom, it clicked and you’re seeing the positive results of that?

RK: Rasmus has been a pleasure all season long. We see the brilliance of his offensive ability, but for us as coaches, we’re so excited how he’s embraced what he needs to do defensively and how hard he works at creating pressure on the opposition without the puck and how proud he is of his one-on-one battles and he wants to win those. Steve Smith has done an unbelievable job of coaching him in individual sessions and while he was injured, spending a lot of time with him going over video and footage. He is, as a 19-year-old, simply an amazing player. His future, he’s still far from his potential. When he fills out physically and we get some more pounds on him as he just naturally will grow and he gets that strength, the sky’s the limit on him. We can all see what he does to the power play and how he’s able to manage the puck up top there at his age; where is that going to end? His shot will become harder, his physical play will become more aggressive and his offense will just continue to find opportunity for the players that he’s on the ice with. We’re extremely excited about how Rasmus is developing here.


JW: The other big story, the trade deadline is approaching. You talked about synergy and how important it is. For you and Jason Botterill, the synergy that the two of you have, do you ask for things at the deadline? Like, “Hey, I’d like a this or a that”? Do you guys talk every single day, especially in these days approaching where roster decisions are probably, I would think, some roster decisions are going to come; maybe big, maybe small.

RK: That always looms in the air in the National Hockey League since the beginning of the season. Of course we’re discussing everything daily. That process is very interesting; it’s a lot of fun. We are always looking at potential options that can make us a stronger team. Yes, we feel that in the air but in the coaching room here, I have to tell you, we are fighting to still make something special out of this season. We haven’t given up on anything that we’re doing here. Our picture remains small in the coaching room and with the players, but with Jason, of course, I drift into the bigger picture on a regular basis. We will continue to try to improve the roster if we can and to build the group that can get us to where we want to go in the future. But it’s kind of a mix in the coaching world; you have to leave that hat outside the room when you walk in with the players. When you leave that space you get into those discussions. We’ll see what the week brings. It will be an interesting week, I think, throughout the league. But for us specifically, we’d like to get stronger.


HS: Hey, Ralph, last thing on the trade deadline, since this is our first deadline with you as the coach of the Sabres: Stuff is out there on social media, I don’t know how many players go on Twitter, stay off Twitter this time of year. Names get mentioned in the rumor mill. How do you handle that as a coach? Do you talk to a particular player or players if you hear names in the rumor mill to make sure they’re staying focused?

RK: No, I think the most important thing is to have them feel our focus on execution, learning, growing like we’ve been trying to do here daily. We don’t discuss those situations. The NHL players are aware that that’s always in the air. Players that don’t have the no-trade, no-move clauses realize that that could happen to them at any point in time. You basically try to concentrate on the task on hand, which today is going to be a good practice and some learning out of the Ottawa game. Tomorrow, the preparation for Pittsburgh and the 1:00 start on Saturday. We do not see those as anything other than part of the normal life of a National Hockey League player. But it’s not really discussed, and we try to keep that noise out of our locker room.


HS: Thanks as always for your time. Thanks for answering our questions and we’ll talk to you again next week. Good luck this weekend against Pittsburgh and Winnipeg.

RK: Thank you to the fans for the last three home games. Those three wins were outstanding and [I] really, really enjoyed the energy in the building. We’ll bring some good energy back from Pittsburgh for a good game against Winnipeg, my hometown, where I was born actually, on Sunday. So it’ll be a fun one.

Post-Game Report: 2/16 vs. Toronto

Final Score

1st 2nd 3rd OT SO Final SOG
Maple Leafs
0 1 1 2 22
0 2 3 5 36

Game Summary

Event Summary


Top Notes

  • With tonight’s win, the Sabres improved to 21-5-2 in their last 28 home games against the Maple Leafs.
  • The Sabres scored three unanswered goals in a span of 1:31 to seal tonight’s win. The last time Buffalo scored three goals in 1:31 or less was April 3, 1998 in a 5-4 win vs. Boston. Brian Holzinger, Matthew Barnaby and Vaclav Varada all scored within a span of 1:08.
  • With tonight’s goal, Jack Eichel (.824 G/GP vs. Toronto) surpassed Alex Ovechkin (.820) to become the active leader in goals per game against the Maple Leafs (min. 5 GP).
  • Eichel’s goal-scoring rate against the Maple Leafs currently ranks sixth among all players with at least 10 games played against Toronto in the expansion era:
    • Blaine Stoughton: .94
    • Mario Lemieux: .94
    • Wayne Gretzky: .87
    • Cam Neely: .84
    • Ulf Nilsson: .83
    • Jack Eichel: .82
  • Kyle Okposo’s goal tonight marked the 500th point of his NHL career.
  • Okposo has a goal in each of his two games against Toronto this season. He leads all Sabres with 24 career points against the Maple Leafs (8+16).
  • With his 79th career point tonight, Rasmus Dahlin has tied Ray Bourque for the second-most points recorded by an NHL defenseman before his 20th birthday. He now trails only Phil Housley (132) for the most points ever recorded by a teenage defenseman.
  • Dahlin now has 14 points (2+12) in his last 15 games, including at least a point in each of his last four games (1+4).
  • With his goal, Johan Larsson finished the game with six goals and 15 points through 52 games this season, matching his goal total and surpassing his point total from his 73-game season in 2018-19. He is now four goals and two points from tying his career-best marks.
  • Colin Miller recorded two primary assists to earn his 21st career multi-point game.


Tonight’s Goaltenders

Tonight’s Stats
Team Goaltender Decision GA SA
Maple Leafs Andersen L 5 36
Sabres Hutton W 2 22
Updated Season Stats
Team Goaltender Record SV% GAA
Maple Leafs Andersen 24-11-6 .908 2.93
Sabres Hutton 11-9-4 .897 3.12


Post-Game Audio

Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger

Sabres forward Jack Eichel

Sabres forward Jimmy Vesey

Sabres forward Kyle Okposo

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe

Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza

Maple Leafs forward John Tavares

Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman

Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen

Post-Game Report: 2/13 vs. Columbus

Final Score

1st 2nd 3rd OT SO Final SOG
Blue Jackets
1 1 1 0 3 31
0 1 2 1 4 27

Game Summary

Event Summary


Top Notes

  • With tonight’s win, the Sabres have won their season series against the Blue Jackets for the first time since 2015-16. All three games in the series were won in overtime by the home team.
  • Victor Olofsson scored twice tonight in his first game back after missing 15 games due to injury, including his first career overtime goal. He finished the game with sole possession of second place among NHL rookies with 18 goals this season.
  • Rasmus Dahlin recorded an assist on both of Olofsson’s goals and now has at least one assist in all three games against Columbus this season.
    • In six career games against the Blue Jackets, Dahlin has collected six assists.
  • With his first assist, Dahlin passed Rick Hampton (76) for third-most points recorded by an NHL defenseman before his 20th birthday. He now trails only Phil Housley (132) and Ray Bourque (79) for most points ever recorded by a teenage defenseman.
  • Dahlin’s second assist of the game was his 30th of the season. He joins Phil Housley as the second defenseman in franchise history to record at least 30 assists in his first two NHL seasons.
  • Jack Eichel (1+2) recorded his 19th multi-point game of the season. The Sabres are 14-3-2 in those games. Eichel has recorded at least three points eight times this season, topping his previous career-high total (6) set in the 2016-17 season.
  • Eichel’s first assist was his 40th of the season. He became the first Sabres player to record 30 goals and 40 assists in a season since Jason Pominville (30+43) in 2011-12.
  • Evan Rodrigues scored and now has four points (3+1) in four games against Columbus in the last two seasons.
  • Carter Hutton recorded his sixth career assist on Buffalo’s third goal. It was the first assist by a Sabres goaltender since Hutton tallied an assist on Feb. 23, 2019 vs. Washington.


Tonight’s Goaltenders

Tonight’s Stats
Team Goaltender Decision GA SA
Blue Jackets
Kivlenieks O 4 27
Sabres Hutton W 3 31
Updated Season Stats
Team Goaltender Record SV% GAA
Blue Jackets Kivlenieks 1-0-2 .916 2.30
Sabres Hutton 10-9-4 .896 3.17


Post-Game Audio

Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger

Sabres forward Victor Olofsson

Sabres forward Jack Eichel

Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues

Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella

Blue Jackets forward Nathan Gerbe

Blue Jackets forward Liam Foudy

Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov

Ralph Krueger Interview – Howard and Jeremy (2/12/20)

February 12, 2020


Ralph Krueger

Howard and Jeremy (8:30 a.m.)

https://wgr550.radio.com/media/audio-channel/02-12-sabres-head-coach-ralph-krueger (17:47)


Howard Simon: Ralph, it’s Howard and Brayton. Good morning. Welcome to the show. Happy Wednesday, sir.

Ralph Krueger: Good morning, Howard. How are you?

HS: Good, I had to stop and make sure it was Wednesday, actually, because I hate wishing someone a happy wrong day. So, yeah, it is.

RK: Wednesday it is.


HS: So, listen, there are a number of players I want to ask you about, but in terms of the game, let me get a couple things in from last night. I’m not sure you could’ve started off worse than giving up a goal on your first shift. So, I guess, talk about how important it was to get the goal back on the next shift of the game.

RK: Overall, the storyline, we did make it tough on ourselves. We really had that difficult start, but you can see, there is a maturity in our group developing where we’re quite calm in those situations. It was good to get it back that quickly. We went down again [the] next period, dug ourselves out and then won the third, which was very important. We were tested last night, but I liked the resiliency of the group. The defensive structure was solid. Detroit had some fresh bodies coming back into the lineup, like (Anthony) Mantha and (Frans) Nielsen, (Mike) Green. They had some more offensive power than a week ago. We neutralized that, got the win. Overall, a good night. Our fans were fantastic last night too.


HS: What did you see that you liked from the line of (Marcus) Johansson, (Curtis) Lazar and (Conor) Sheary?

RK: Well it was interesting to move Johansson onto the wing and free him from his defensive responsibility. Curtis Lazar’s been a solid player for us in both directions, leading in our penalty killing group and winning big faceoffs and (Lazar) just kind of gives Johansson a bit of freedom. Conor Sheary and Johansson seem to have a little bit of synergy. We watched them, there’s some chemistry there and we saw that especially on the first goal and Johansson scoring the second goal was important for his confidence at the moment. Overall, a line that was good in both directions, able to play up against (Dylan) Larkin, their top line on multiple occasions. Yeah, we liked the look of that and we’ll probably giving it another look tomorrow.


HS: I can never remember “Jo-hansson,” “Yo-hansson.” Both of them are “Yo-hanssons,” Ralph?

RK: Yeah, don’t forget that I’ve been living in Europe most of my life. Over there we would say “Yo-hansson,” here people say “Jo-hansson.” I think it’s fine for the guys as long as we say their name.


HS: With Johansson, after the game you talked about how you thought he played a little more freely because he didn’t have to worry about the center responsibilities. He talked about feeling comfortable on the wing. For the time being, will you keep him there?

RK: It’s always something within the game, depending on how it’s going, if we want to push for offense, we can always move him there. It’s good to have that option, but at the moment, barring any injuries up the middle, we’d like to try and keep him there and let him evolve. We need more depth offensively with offense with (Victor) Olofsson and (Kyle) Okposo on the verge of returning, we’re expecting to be a more formidable offensive team, so hopefully Johansson on the wing gives us that power too.


HS: Is Lazar now, as you look down the middle on the depth chart, is Lazar now, you think, now your best option after [Jack] Eichel?

RK: We really just don’t rate things that way. If you look at what the Larsson line’s done, playing up and down, depending on what we need. They often match up against the top line of the other team for the entire game. It really has to do with faceoff situations, has to do with the flow of the game, has to do with the way the line is playing up against the opposition. We really don’t think that way; one, two, three, four. Clearly, Jack’s line gets the majority of the ice team. We all know that Jack Eichel’s our leader, both on and off the ice. Otherwise, it’s really nice the way we played a four-line game yesterday. It’s very rare this season where we felt that strength right through the lineup. We really could’ve trusted anybody to play against Larkin and/or give us something offensively, as well as being responsible defensively yesterday. So that’s the way we’d like to go moving forward. The good teams in the league have that power.


HS: (Jeff) Skinner, the goal drought is now at 19 (games). It’s a career-high for him. He gets the odd shift every now and then with Jack Eichel and with Sam Reinhart. I know last time we were on with you, we brought up the idea of him on the No. 1 power play and he eventually got some time there, but he still hasn’t been able to score a goal. When it comes to Skinner and usage, Ralph, I know all the fans are wondering about it — we are too — why not just give him a full game, a shot with Eichel with Reinhart? Not just a shift, but say, “Okay, you’re going on their line and let’s see what happens.”

RK: We wake up every here growing the team, and we wake up every morning here doing what’s best for the team. We do not make decisions here based on individual needs, we base our decisions on the mixes and the chemistry and the lineup that we think is strongest for the Buffalo Sabres. That’s the way we work, and that’s the way we’re going to continue to work. When Jack’s playing up against the top lines and top D-pairs of the other team, we need other lines to be able to produce against the second and third pairs of the opposition. We do not make decision for individuals, quite clearly, here. Everything is about the team; everything is about the team game. That’s the way the Buffalo Sabres are going to be built moving forward and that’s the way we’re going to become competitive in the National Hockey League. We’re going to hold that line. We believe in it, we feel confident in it, the guys are embracing it. What we have to learn is to finish games better. We have to learn as a group to manage our specialty teams better. We’re excited about what’s going on here behind the closed doors. We understand people aren’t happy with the results, and they’d like to see us with six, seven, eight points more in the standings. But, again, it’s all about the team here, and we will continue to work in that way.


HS: Couldn’t you make a case though, if you got Skinner going and he started scoring, that is best for — not only best for him — but it is best for the team? You’re getting more goals.

RK: Oh yeah, he’s getting opportunity. He’s getting opportunity. He’s trying and he’s working on it. When he gets one, he’s a bunch scorer, he’ll get a bunch. But I appreciate your opinion.


HS: Yeah, well it’s frustrating. And I guess, the other thing was, I coupled this with Olofsson being out. When Olofsson was there — and I know earlier in the season you had talked about it — you want to get balance, you don’t want to be a one-line team. Olofsson was producing, so why screw around with that line; he’s doing well. With him out, (Zemgus) Girgensons got a shot, (Jimmy) Vesey’s now getting a shot, and I just thought, to try and get Skinner’s game right, you didn’t have to leave him there, but Ralph, I think anybody will succeed with Eichel and Reinhart. Get him up there, get him some confidence. He puts in a few goals, you move him back down, Olofsson goes back in, whatever, and then maybe you’ve got a consistent second line of scoring going.

RK: Yeah, I appreciate your opinion, Howard. That’s good to hear. Thanks.


HS: In terms of ice time for Eichel: what’d he have? 20 minutes or whatever it was against Anaheim. I think last night in the third period, I think you maybe double shifted that line early in the third period. But he only had 20 last night, so how do you balance out, “That is my best line. That’s the guys I want on the ice. But I can’t play them 28 minutes a night?”

RK: Again, we are truly trying to work in a small picture here. There are a lot of distractions and there are a lot of things pulling us, at times, in the wrong direction in and around our development. Everybody’s got a right to their opinion, and they’re going to fight against our process as long as the results aren’t exactly what everybody wants. It’s the same with the way we manage minutes during a game; we do what we feel is right to the game. Yesterday was a good four-line game going. Against Anaheim, we did not have a four-line game going, we needed to reduce our roster really quick. Jack was playing either side of timeouts. We’re going to always do, on the day, what we think is going to give us the best chance to win. There’s not a day where we’re not going to go after the W. This group’s got no quit in it. We appreciate the way the guys are always fighting back. We have fallen behind too much of late, and we need to work on getting some leads here in the next games. But Jack’s minutes aren’t planned before the game. He dictates that, often, and the game dictates that. That’s what makes it fun. It’s the greatest game to be coaching. I just love coaching the game of hockey where you are really, truly submersed in the moment. Where you submerse with a feeling of who’s on today and who’s off. Do I always get it right? No way. I’m going to make mistakes. I always have, I always will. They’re there because you try, and you risk, and you attempt to do things. Jack’s just been fantastic in the process, whether he plays 20 minutes or he plays 28, he’s going to give his best every single shift. He’s as hardworking as anybody on the team. What a leader he is moving forward it’s exciting what we have here for core players, for young players that are all in and Jack is definitely at the lead of all that.


HS: I want to ask you about Sam Reinhart, Ralph, in the discussion of always doing what’s best for the team. So, Reinhart, he scored again last night. He’s on pace for career high goals. He’s on pace for career high points. He’s having a tremendous season. Do you think — is he good enough to the bigger-picture discussion of driving his own line? If you put him — and on the wing too, not necessarily at center — if you took him away from Jack and said, “Okay, I need to get more scoring form my offense,” could Reinhart drive a line by himself?

RK: I mean, why would you break up that pair right now? They’re as good a duo as there is in the National Hockey League. The way the synergize, also defensively, we just don’t see that as an option at the moment. Sam Reinhart is a very complete athlete and player. He’s a leader in our group and you’ve got to love the season he’s having. He’s working for everything. The way he complements Jack is outstanding. On the other [wing] with Jack, it’s very important that you have an extremely strong two-way player who is able to free Jack and Sam from defensive responsibilities. Jimmy Vesey’s done an excellent job of that the last few games and that’s the way Jack, for us, needs to be complemented. Sam has just done a fabulous job. Both of them are having seasons that we would like them to bang in year in and year out and what we need is the next layer of scoring to come up closer to them. Right now, Sam’s doing everything we ask and there would be no reason to move him from where he is. 


HS: Couple other things, Ralph, before we let you go. One is about Lawrence Pilut. Scratched two of the last three games, a quick trip to Rochester and came back. I wanted to know, could you tell me the process, the thought process and what you go through weighing a youngster like that here — but not playing — versus is it better off for him to be in Rochester playing on a regular basis?

RK: The organization really does a good job of monitoring that. Jason Botterill, Randy Sexton, they’ve got a super feel and quite an experience with the development of players. I’m not nearly as experienced in those processes. I enjoy working together with them and how we manage these players, whether it’s the decisions that were made now around Casey Mittelstadt to make him the best possible player for the future for the club, or the way Curtis Lazar went up and down; the same is going on with Lawrence Pilut. We look at it every day. What’s best for him at the moment, we feel this experience of being in the group, practicing with the group, being in our meetings, feeling what it takes to compete in the National Hockey League in February, in March, in April; this is a different level that’s coming at us now. It’s learning to play good hockey at this time. He’s part of us, he’s here, he’s important for us and we feel comfortable with him jumping in at any time. But we do have to keep an eye on that, Howard. You’re right for sure. You don’t want him to go too long without playing any games at all. So it’s kind of a day-to-day basis. If we don’t need him in the next few games, yeah, he might play some games down in Rochester and then come back again. That’s where management has a good feel. If you look at the job that was done on Victor Olofsson, if you look at the job that’s being done right now on Casey (Mittelstadt), there’s different ways to get the potential out of a player. Lawrence has just been fantastic with us. He’s got a really professional attitude. He works hard on and off the ice. He brings a good spirit. Just adding to our depth on defense. You’ve got it right, we’ve got to make sure we get the right amount of games in too while he’s getting the experience parallel to that.


HS: I had an Olympic question for you before we let you go, but I also did forget injury updates, because you mentioned Okposo, you mentioned Olofsson and I guess also (Linus) Ullmark. What’s the latest on those three guys in terms of return to the ice for game situations?

RK: So Olofsson and Okposo joined us full on yesterday and will be full on in practice today, and they become day-to-day. They become day-to-day beginning today. Ullmark still has a few weeks though.


HS: The other thing I’m curious about, Ralph: I know you’re busy with the Sabres, I’m not sure if you’re following all this stuff that’s going on with the NHL and the Olympics and whether players are going to participate. You have extensive international tournament coaching experience — what are your thoughts on the idea of the NHL, I know it’s above your pay grade, shutting down the league and all that, but what about the idea of the NHL [sending it’s players to the Olympics]? I think the players are mostly in favor of it. I love it, I think the fans love it. What about the NHL and participation in the Olympics, from your perspective, having been there?

RK: Well I’ve been at four Olympic Games and if you see the experience that players make by going to the Olympic Games, it’s irreplaceable. It goes beyond the game of hockey. You become a part of something much bigger than your sport. To experience that with all the multi-levels of athletes from so many different nations in a true celebration of sports is an experience I wish every player would receive. Would I love to have Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart — leading players here — Dahlin, experience that kind of event? Yes, for sure. I think it makes them wiser and I think it’s an excellent experience. Now, I can’t make a decision on the business side and I would understand if it just doesn’t work for the National Hockey League, but I think it’s an experience that everybody that ever can be a part of needs to be able to have. So, yeah, I’m a big fan of the Olympic Games and what happens to athletes through that experience. It just deepens the journey. For me to be a part of Team Canada in 2014 and winning the gold medal, I know that every one of those players would treasure that experience as top of their career at the end. Hopefully we can find a solution there.


HS: Ralph, thanks for your time, thanks for coming on with us this morning and good luck tomorrow night against the Blue Jackets.

RK: Thank you very much, and really a big thank you to the fans. We’ve had a bit of a tough stretch of late. We got a lot of confidence out of the game yesterday against the Red Wings. We’re looking forward to a real good battle against Columbus tomorrow.

HS: We’ll talk to you next week, Ralph.

RK: Thank you.