Sabres assistant Steve Smith stepping in during Ralph Kreuger’s absence

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Steve Smith addresses the team during Thursday’s practice.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Assistant coach Steve Smith has been thrust into a de-facto head coaching role in Ralph Krueger’s absence. He’s led practice each of the last three days after a week-long layoff for the team. Smith said they talked about this possibility early in the season and while they’ve been dealing with this issue, their biggest focus is on what they can control.

“What we can control right now is we can control the players we have here,” Smith said. “We can control the drills and the way we approach things daily and we’re doing our best to keep not only the group positive, but the coaching staff positive, too. We’ve rallied together over the last three or four days.”

Smith said these first few days back were more focused on getting pace going for the team considering they had more than a week off the ice.

“I felt like the first day the guys were a little in awe of what was happening and how we were going to approach this, but the last two days I felt were really good,” Smith said. “There was a lot of good substance to the practice. The guys had good energy. They had a lot of fun, but they also worked really hard.”

Right now the Sabres are scheduled to play the Islanders next Monday, and Saturday will be the day to hone in on the gameday preparation.

“We’re going to meet a moving train on Monday night when we see the Islanders,” Smith said. “They’ve been playing through this so we have to get ourselves prepared for that game and probably more on the weekend than the last couple days we’ll start to really zero in on our team game. It was more of a pace thing and a skills thing these past couple or three days.”

We don’t know if Smith will be the team’s head coach on the bench when the games get started next Monday. He said it hasn’t been discussed yet. So we’ll just wait to see what his role will be when the games get back going against the Islanders next Monday.

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