BUFFALO — Ralph Krueger was back at practice Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19, but it’s unknown if the 61-year-old will coach the Buffalo Sabres at home against the New York Islanders on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, MSG-B, NHL.TV).
“Today was an excellent day to spend with the staff and with the players,” Krueger said. “I went soft on the ice, but otherwise, really trying to go through a regular day. And then we’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning.”
Krueger greeted trainers and staff and chatted with several players on the ice before going off to the corners to watch assistant Steve Smith run practice. He stayed on the ice for about 15 minutes before speaking with Smith and then retreating to the stands to watch the rest of the session.
He entered NHL COVID-19 protocol Feb. 4.
“I had moderately severe symptoms,” Krueger said. “I never did end up having a fever, but I did end up with a lot of aches and sleeping and fatigue for more than a week. Definitely time to realize how lethal this COVID is.”
It was the first time Krueger was on the ice since Feb. 1, Buffalo’s last practice before its season was paused. The Sabres (4-4-2) haven’t played since a 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 31.
“So far, I’m feeling quite well, but of course scarred by the experience,” he said. “Grateful to be one of the people coming out of it by the looks of it. And really pay my respects to the people working in the medical care, and then for the many families who didn’t have success in dealing with it the way I have. Our medical team has been amazing in the support.
“My wife didn’t get it, which is a bit of a miracle in itself. She’s been multiple tested but she’s fine. And I’m very grateful for that, too.”
Though Krueger’s time on the ice was brief, returning provided him with a welcome jolt.
“First of all, I didn’t want to fall down after two weeks off, so I checked that box,” Krueger said. “Just this morning, when the players arrived and we passed each other, and getting out on the ice for a few minutes gives you so much energy back. You know why you’re here. You love the group you’re working with and the potential of the group and the individuals. … I get a surge of energy right now just even talking about it.”
Rasmus Dahlin also returned after being in protocol as a close contact. The defenseman skated with Colin Miller at practice and is expected to be in the lineup against the Islanders.
“I was negative from the beginning,” Dahlin said, “just trying to stay away and keep the things I have to do and get ready for the game tomorrow. That’s all I can do.”
Dahlin was the second player to exit protocol after forward Taylor Hall practiced Saturday. He said also having Krueger back gave the Sabres an extra boost.
“It’s huge,” Dahlin said. “He’s doing well, and it got us going today and he’s going to get us going tomorrow, too, so it’s going to be a great day. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Photo courtesy of Buffalo Sabres