Ralph Krueger, Rasmus Dahlin return to Sabres

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FILE – Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger looks on in the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Denver. Krueger marked his return to practice Sunday, feb. 14, 2021 with an upbeat but cautionary message following a 10-day bout with what he called “moderately severe symptoms” of COVID-19. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)

BUFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – More names are coming off the COVID protocol list, including a very important one. Head coach Ralph Krueger returned to the team Sunday after his stint on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. Last week the team confirmed he actually tested positive for the virus and was symptomatic.

He got on the ice for a few minutes, then left and assistant coach Steve Smith ran the practice from there. Krueger said he never ran a fever, but he did have moderate to severe symptoms. He had a lot of aches and sleeping and fatigue for more than a week.

“Definitely time to realize how lethal this Covid is,” Krueger said. “Everybody knows I try to keep myself in shape and manage that part of my life, but just really pleased in the last few days to get back to feeling more normal. I’ll take it a day at a time. Today was an excellent day to spend with the staff and with the players. I went soft on the ice, but otherwise really trying to go through a regular day.”

Krueger said he’ll see how he feels Monday to decide whether or not he’ll coach on the bench. Said he’s so far feeling well, but is scarred by the experience.

“Grateful to be one of the people coming out of it by the looks of it and also really pay my respects to the people working in medical care and then for the many families that didn’t have success with dealing with it the way I have and our medical team’s been amazing in the support and my wife didn’t get it which is a bit of a miracle in itself,” Krueger said. “She’s been multiple tested, but she’s fine and I’m very grateful for that too.”

He had a lot of appreciation for the medical staff with the Sabres for helping him through the situation. He was happy to be back on the ice with the team, even though it was just for a short amount of time.

“Just this morning when the players arrived and we passed each other and getting on the ice for a few minutes just gives you so much energy back,” Krueger said. “You know why you’re here. You love the group you’re working with and the potential of the group and the individuals and so my answer to you would be it was outstanding to be back on the ice, be around the players and the staff and knowing our fans are waiting at home for us to get back in action, I get a surge of energy right now just even talking about it.”

Rasmus Dahlin the other guy that came off the list Sunday. Dahlin actually tested negative. He had to go on the COVID list because of contact tracing. He was able to workout during his quarantine since he tested negative, so that’s a lot of what he did while he was away. He was happy to return and also glad to see his head coach back on the ice as well.

“Him being back is huge,” Dahlin said. “He’s doing well and it really got us going today and it’s going to get it going tomorrow too so it’s going to be a great day, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Krueger and Dahlin he second and third members of the team to get back after a stint on the league’s COVID protocol list. That challenge is behind them, but a new one lies ahead. They’ve had to postpone six games these past two weeks, and starting Monday, if they avoid any more postponements, they’ll play 46 games in a little more than 80 days. It’s a stretch they know will be difficult, but also one they’re ready to face.

“It’s tough and the same for everyone so we’ve just got to go out there and compete first of all and then the other stuff will come and hopefully get a win and then end everything‘s going to go naturally I think,” Dahlin said.

“I think it’s important not to look at the standings right now, that we take the next block of 10 games and make sure that coming out of that we are in a good position and be patient with our reentry to be able to get our habits activated,” Krueger said. “We’re playing a team as dedicated to the way it plays in the Islanders as anybody in our division and they are definitely finding their a game at the moment so it’ll be a big test right off the bat tomorrow.”

Dahlin plans to play on Monday night against the New York Islanders as does Taylor Hall, who returned to the team Saturday morning. That game starts at 7 at the KeyBank Center.

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