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Sabres Notebook: Lehner on goalie interference; Ullmark still out

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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When the Sabres recalled Linus Ullmark in mid-March, the goaltender was set to be a regular in the crease for the remainder of the season. It hasn't worked out that way.

Ullmark worked with goaltending coach Andrew Allen prior to Thursday's morning skate, but the injured netminder departed for the dressing room before the session officially started. Ullmark will be scratched against Detroit as Robin Lehner makes the start and Chad Johnson serves as the backup.

Ullmark was scheduled to start Monday in Toronto, but he was dinged by a shot during the morning skate and sat out.

"He's still day-to-day," Sabres coach Phil Housley said in KeyBank Center. "He's working his way back in, but a little bit slower process on his part. Eventually, he'll get back in the lineup."

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The Sabres recalled Ullmark on March 13, but he missed the first two games for the birth of his son. Adding in the injury, Ullmark has missed four potential starts overall. The Sabres have six games left.

Center Kyle Criscuolo, meanwhile, is receiving good injury news. He suffered an upper-body injury while getting hit into the boards by Toronto's Matt Martin on March 5, but the rookie has returned to the ice.

"He's doing great," Housley said. "He's skated with us the last two days. He's ready to go, getting close to getting back in the lineup."

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The Amerks have named defenseman Nathan Paetsch as the team's Man of the Year for his contributions to the Rochester community during the 2017-18 season.

Paetsch becomes one of 30 finalists for the American Hockey League's Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the league's overall Man of the Year. The award is named for the former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia.

Drafted by the Sabres in 2003, Paetsch spent three seasons in Rochester and played for Buffalo from 2006 until 2010. He returned to the Amerks this season after five years with Grand Rapids, where he won two Calder Cup titles.

The 34-year-old suffered a broken leg in just his third game of the season and was out for nearly three months. He regularly met with fans and youth organizations at games as part of the Captain’s Club program.

Paetsch took part in the Amerks' Reading Power Play Program at the Fairport Public Library, visited three Rochester-area hospitals at Christmastime and helped raise awareness of polar bear and ice-conservation efforts in partnership with the Seneca Park Zoo. He also provided on-ice instruction for the Rochester IceCats, a team of individuals with developmental disabilities.

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