Krueger: 'We're giving up very little defensively right now; it's our offense that needs to get firing again'

The Sabres head coach joined Howard and Jeremy ahead of Tuesday's New Year's Eve matchup with the Lightning

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December 31, 2019 - 1:16 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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The 2019 calendar year will end on Tuesday night, and the Buffalo Sabres are hoping to close out 2019 with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at KeyBank Center.

The Sabres are hoping to find a solution to turn around some disappointing play lately as the team has lost three straight games, as well as six of their last seven games played. In that stretch, the Sabres have gone 1-5-1, have been outscored by a 25-12 total, and have fallen behind in the Atlantic Division standings.

As of right now, the Sabres currently sit in sixth place in the division with a 17-16-7 record and 41 points, which trails the Toronto Maple Leafs by six points, the Florida Panthers by four points, the Lightning by three points, and the Montreal Canadiens by one point.

After Tuesday night's matchup with the Lightning, the Sabres will host the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night, followed by another home matchup with the Panthers on Saturday night before heading off for a road matchup with the St. Louis Blues next Thursday. If the Sabres are hoping to turn the tide and get back in the playoff race, they will need to earn some wins against some of the better teams around the NHL right now.

Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Tuesday for his weekly appearance on WGR. Krueger spoke of some of the team's recent struggles, as well as the recent addition of forward Dalton Smith, the impact of losing Jeff Skinner to injury and more.

Here is some of what he had to say:

 

Krueger on adding forward Dalton Smith to the mix:

"Definitely he's in here now for us to get to know him. He's improved quite a bit down in Rochester. They've enjoyed his physicality, he's definitely somebody who gets in on the forecheck, and is a spark plug for them. He's been a good leader, as far as what he's doing in the room... We just want to get a look at him, and there's not promise as to how he's going to play or if he's going to play. It's just an opportunity because he was not in training camp for us to get to see him."

 

Krueger on becoming a better team defensively:

"The guys are playing hard, and we've been extremely disappointed with the results as of late. But we're giving up very little defensively right now, and it's our offense that needs to get firing again. To play good defensively, you have to be physical and you have to be aggressive as a group. We have been that, but it's something that you can possibly build on in certain situations, add a little bit more grit, but it's not that we're not pleased with the way the group is evolving in that respect. There is a team toughness there. We're hard to play against."

We're, No. 1, learning to be a solid, consistent defensive group of players working together without the puck. It doesn't always take away, slightly, in the evolution of the team and the learning process from the offense, and the guys are all in there. They're working so hard to take away time and space from the opposition. They're working hard as a team on and off the ice to take care of that part of the game."

 

Krueger on the importance of getting the power play going:

"The power play remains the motor for us offensively. If it's going, it seems like out game at 5-on-5 goes. That will be a primary focus tonight against Tampa Bay. They're running the No. 1 power play in the National Hockey League, so we have a powerhouse coming at us there, and we have to find a way to defend against that, but also be an excellent power play ourselves."

"It's not about the results on the power play, but it's the way the power play is executing. What we like to see on the power play is a lot of good, solid grade-A scoring chances coming out of it. Whether we score or not is not really relevant. It's about those players, who are usually our lead on offense, that they are getting confidence on the power play, they're feeling good about the way we're playing on the power play."

"The guys are all in here. I like the way the team is working. If we hold this line, I'm quite confident the results will follow here again quickly."

 

Krueger on the recent play of Conor Sheary:

"He's a spark plug kind of player. When he's skating and energized, he's a gritty player that, for the opposition, is difficult to play against. It's something that we need from him and we're expecting. The opportunity is there. With Jeff [Skinner] out for a few weeks, somebody is going to be getting that ice time. Conor is certainly in a lead position to get a bigger opportunity here, and we're quite confident that he can pick up that slack."

 

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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