Krueger: 'I believe our fanbase can feel the game we want to play'

January 15, 2020 - 2:29 pm

The 2020 calendar year has, so far, treated the Buffalo Sabres pretty well.

In the first six games of January, the Sabres have gone 4-2-0 with some key wins over the Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Detroit Red Wings, and most recently the Vegas Golden Knights.

The team is currently getting ready for a two-game road trip to face the Dallas Stars on Thursday and Nashville Predators on Saturday before embarking on their five-day bye week, immediately followed by the three-day NHL All-Star Break. Buffalo's next game after that will kick off a five-game homestand at KeyBank Center when the Ottawa Senators come to town on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

While Buffalo's play has not been perfect, the team still finds itself in a spot where they are just five points out of a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference standings through the first 47 games of the year. The Sabres are currently 21-19-7 with 49 points, and sit fifth in the Atlantic Division standings behind the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers.

With a couple of wins before the break, the Sabres could really set themselves up for a good run in the last 33 games to potentially get themselves in a position to contend for a playoff stretch heading into late March and early April.

Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger has had a large part in the team's play through the best of times and worst of times this season. He joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Wednesday for his weekly appearance on WGR, where he discussed how his team has played up until this point of the season. He also touched base on the impressive play of Jack Eichel through his eight-game point streak, play play of both Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark in goal, and more.

Here is some of what he had to say:

Krueger on Jack Eichel's performance against Vegas and his play this season:

"I used the word last night, 'genius', and it is what Jack has in him. It's so exciting to be coaching that and to be a part of it. But what people don't see is the hard work that he puts in away from those events. He's going 100% all the time, whether it's in the gym or his nutrition or off the ice or working with his teammates/ That's why those things happen. It's not luck or by chance. Jack Eichel works for everything that he gets, and when he does show those moments, it's a beautiful thing to be a part of as a coach. Last night we needed that brilliance. Vegas is one of the top teams in the league, and to see Jack take the game under his control and to decide it with an event like that is why he is so special."

Krueger on the play of the team right now:

"The habits we are trying to develop here are hard to consistently execute. It takes a lot of dedication and commitment to making them something that we can bring on a nightly basis. If you look at the top clubs in the league, if you look at Washington, Boston, or now Tampa Bay, they're doing things on a very consistent level day-in and day-out. They didn't just start doing those overnight either, they had to work on those. Some players for years and years, and then the team as a group.

"I would say we're continuing to develop and continuing to grow, and we're just looking for that consistency. I believe our fanbase can feel the game we want to play. We want to play on our toes, we want to play aggressive, we want to play attractive hockey here in Buffalo, but we want to do it day-in and day-out. We're not doing it yet, we understand that. Everybody needs to know that we're working hard to get that consistency. It's going to come over time because of the attitude we have in the room right now."

Krueger on the improvement of the power play in recent games:

"More movement, less predictability, and the hunger to get shots to the net has increased. Rasmus Ristolainen going to the net front is creating a new stress on the net presence and pressure on the opposition, and it's freed up Jack and our playmaking ability quite a bit. It's a combination of factors. The guys have been working hard at it. Power play is all about [confidence]. You get the mojo, you get that feeling, and it starts to click, which is has been lately. Now we need to keep that going.

We had this kind of a stretch early in the season then we dropped off. It's our offensive motor. It'll decide how we do offensively, it'll decide how effective we are in our 5-on-5 game because some of our key offensive players can get their confidence there. It's been hot as of late, and we need to keep it there."

Krueger on the struggles of Carter Hutton:

"We just continue to work hard with him. Those results are not only the responsibility of Carter, they're the responsibility of us as a group. If you look at the last game against Vancouver, we left our game. He gave us a chance in the first two periods to stay in that one. He just needs to continue to work the way he is. Mike Bales is doing an outstanding job with our goalies. There's nothing else to say. It's hard work, belief in your fundamentals, keep focusing on those, and when the next call comes his way, the team also understanding the situation he's in and helping him to get his confidence back and his belief. It will come."

Krueger on the performance of Linus Ullmark in goal:

"He taken [his game] to another level this year. The top goalies in the league do play the minutes he does. The top goalies are able to play the games he does, and he's on course and on path to be one of the top goalies in the league, if not there already. It's what he did in the summer and what he's doing in his mind. All of these things come together and we feel confident that he can handle the load."

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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