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Sabres' Lehner still sees gray in NHL's change to coach's challenge

The NHL has changed the way it will handle coach's challenges for goaltender interference, but Robin Lehner figures there will still be plenty of gray and not a black-and-white implementation.

The league will allow the NHL Situation Room in Toronto to issue the decisions for coach's challenges, and a former referee will be in the room as part of the decision-making process. The league will still consult with on-ice officials, but it will make the final call.

Inconsistent determinations of goalie interference prompted the league's general managers to centralize the rule, and it was approved by the board of governors and competition committee. The changes went into effect Wednesday.

"The biggest challenge of it will be finding the right guy in the room," Lehner said Thursday in KeyBank Center. "You just hope he doesn't swing too much one way or the other way. I definitely want to start seeing more consistent calls, but I don't want a player to just be touching a goalie a little bit and it's called interference, either."

The Buffalo Sabres goaltender obviously wants room to make a save, but he knows hockey is a contact sport. That is particularly true around the net.

"The players that accidentally fall into you and step inside the blue paint on purpose and stuff like that, it's different," Lehner said before facing Detroit. "I just feel like when a goalie is the guy that makes the contact, that goes out and makes contact on top of the crease, it's our own fault.

"There's a reason why they stand there. They want to screen, and they also want to get us a little bit deeper to score more goals. I think those gray areas should be more in the benefit of players. I feel like when a goalie has set the line and players come in to contact them, if it interferes, it should be interference."

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Officials try to determine if the goalie could have made the save without an opposing player nearby. That's not always obvious, as the reviews have shown.

"If you run into a goalie and he falls down and he's late to a puck – still gets there but doesn't get there the way he should have – I think that should be interference," Lehner said. "That's such a hard gray area, and that's why it's such a hard time to determine for referees and for the league.

"I also think one thing they should take into determination is how the goal goes in. Sometimes the goalie will get a little bit interfered, but the goal will happen where it really wouldn't matter. … No matter if he's interfered with or not, it would have gone in.

"There's so many moving parts in this. It's not a black or white. There's going to be some inconsistencies moving forward. It's just about limiting them a little bit more."

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