Ralph Krueger tried to buy himself some time. The Buffalo Sabres' coach called the officials to the bench inside Nationwide Arena to hear what they thought occurred on the Columbus Blue Jackets' go-ahead goal in the third period Monday night.
All the while, Krueger's video coach, Myles Fee, was examining the goal closely to see if Nick Foligno interfered with Linus Ullmark prior to the puck going in. Buying time isn't unusual for coaches while they determine if they want to challenge for goaltender interference or if offsides occurred during a possession that resulted in a goal against.
However, the stakes are higher following the National Hockey League's latest rule change. The first failed coach's challenge will result in a minor penalty for delay of game and any unsuccessful review that follows will be a double-minor penalty. The latest rule will force Krueger and his staff to decide whether a challenge is worth the risk.
"We looked at one the other night as an example," Krueger said. "It’s just buying some time as you’re going through the process, but we did a few dry runs. You have to look at where you are in the game. You have to look at what the score is. You have to take that all into account now before you make a call on anything that’s not 100 percent clear to see."
There are more opportunities for coaches to make the wrong decision. In addition to the new disciplinary rule, the NHL expanded coach's challenges to include plays that may involve pucks that hit the spectator netting, pucks passed to a teammate with a high stick in the offensive zone, pucks that have gone out of play but are subsequently touched in the offensive zone and hand passes without a play stoppage that ultimately result in a goal.
The NHL's "situation room" in Toronto will continue to be responsible for initiating video review in the final minute of regulation and overtime, and will have final authority over all coach's challenge video review decisions. The change adds another layer of strategy for Krueger, who is adjusting to the technology that wasn't available to him during his last season behind an NHL bench.
Krueger prefers to not look at an iPad during stoppages of play, opting to wait until intermission to watch sequences. But he has spoken about the need to delegate responsibilities. Fee, who worked with Krueger for three seasons in Edmonton, will be trusted to advise the bench whether a challenge is needed.
Krueger does not think the Sabres will be affected much this season.
"Again, we haven’t been faced with that situation yet, but it is unique now knowing you’re going into a shorthanded situation and I’m sure it’s going to come up soon," Krueger added. "But I don’t expected that to happen more than 10 times in the whole season maybe, where we truly have a decision like that to make. We will make our decision depending on the score."
Sheary "week to week"
Sabres winger Conor Sheary has been downgraded from "day to day" to "week to week" with an upper-body injury. As a result, forward Evan Rodrigues drew back into the lineup Wednesday night against Montreal. Rodrigues replaced Sheary on Casey Mittelstadt's line and the second power-play unit.
Sheary, who scored two goals in the season-opening win at Pittsburgh, played 12:05 in the Sabres' 4-3 loss to Columbus on Monday. Though the injury left Krueger with only 12 forwards on his roster, he explained to the media that he and General Manager Jason Botterill would feel comfortable playing with a seventh defenseman if an injury occurred.
"At the moment, we’re just going to stay with the group we have," Krueger said. "It’s a quick turnaround and we feel comfortable, even if something did occur in the afternoon, and we’d go seven [defensemen] and 11 [forwards], we’d be fine today and then we’ll reassess. Jason and I are just speaking about it, but we’d like the group in Rochester to get ready for the weekend at the moment."
Team Canada connection
Krueger did not hide the fact he was particularly excited to face his coaching counterpart Wednesday night. He and Canadiens coach Claude Julien worked together during Team Canada's gold-medal run at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Julien, along with Ken Hitchcock and Lindy Ruff, was an assistant coach on Mike Babcock's staff, while Krueger served as a team consultant. Krueger would scout opponents and present that information to his fellow coaches prior to each game. Julien spoke glowingly of Krueger following the Canadiens' optional morning skate.
"He’s a smart individual, good guy, fun to work with and, again, a smart hockey guy," Julien said of Krueger. "He did a great job for us in pre-scouting the European teams before the Sochi Olympics. We had some great scouting reports on the teams, and then when he came in, just blended in really well with our group. I’ve always thought he was a good coach. Sometimes you end up in a situation where it wasn’t Edmonton, it was a little tough on him. But I don’t think it had anything to do with his coaching, I think it was more the situation.
"He proved himself with Team Europe and, again, he’s off to a good start here. I’m not surprised he’s an NHL coach again, because he’s a very knowledgeable and capable guy of coaching in this league, and I’m sure he’s going to keep showing it."
Paille joins Canisius staff
Daniel Paille, a former first-round draft pick of the Sabres who played 11 seasons in the NHL, has joined the Canisius hockey program as a volunteer assistant coach for the 2019-20 season. Paille, a native of Welland, Ontario, was drafted 20th overall by the Sabres in 2002 and played parts of five seasons with the team from 2005-10.
Paille scored 85 goals among 172 points in 582 regular-season games with the Sabres, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. He won a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.