BUFFALO – Having just spent most of training camp with the Sabres, coach Ralph Krueger expects Chris Taylor to transition to the NHL smoothly.
The Sabres promoted Taylor, the Rochester Americans’ head coach, on an interim basis today to replace assistant coach Don Granato, who’s hospitalized with pneumonia.
Granato, 52, will be taking a medical leave from the Sabres.
“The curve is in the right direction,” Krueger said of Granato’s health following today’s practice inside KeyBank Center. “We’re optimistic that he will recover fully from this setback. He’s in very good medical hands.”
Amerks assistant Gord Dineen, 57, has been given Taylor’s coaching duties. Sabres development coach Adam Mair will also assist Rochester early in the season.
Krueger said Taylor, 47, possesses a strong understanding of what the Sabres want to do.
Many believe Taylor, a former Amerks star who played with the Sabres, will eventually earn a full-time promotion to the NHL, perhaps as a head coach. He has coached the Amerks the last two seasons, leading the AHL club to two playoff appearances.
Krueger said he likes Taylor’s “willingness to question things.”
“We’ve had wonderful debates, Chris Taylor and I, through these last six weeks especially,” Krueger said. “I just enjoy continuing those. He … knows some of these players very well from them having gone through the process of working through Rochester into the National Hockey League.
“So on multiple levels he’s an easy guy to slip in here.”
Krueger hired Granato, someone he has called a “lifer” coach, in June. Granato has NHL experience with the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues and has also coached in the AHL, ECHL NCAA and junior.
Granato worked beside Krueger during the preseason games, so Taylor will likely coach from the bench.
The Sabres open their season Thursday on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Amerks, meanwhile, start Friday at home against the Syracuse Crunch.
Dineen played 528 NHL games as a defenseman. He has spent the last 16 seasons as an AHL assistant or head coach. He led the Toronto Marlies in 2014-15 and the Iowa Chops in 2008-09.
His brother, Kevin Dineen, coached the Sabres’ old AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates, from 2008 to 2011. Kevin Dineen now coaches the Anaheim Ducks’ AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls.
Krueger said the 22 players on the ice today would comprise the Sabres’ opening-night roster.
The Sabres sent all four players they waived Monday – forwards Remi Elie, Curtis Lazar and Scott Wilson and defenseman Casey Nelson – to the Amerks today after they cleared.
In injury news, Krueger said defenseman Brandon Montour (hand) is skating but “still a few weeks away from actually joining any type of contact.”
Meanwhile, Krueger said defenseman Zach Bogosian, who underwent offseason hip surgery, had a few setbacks over the summer.
The Sabres have no timetable for Bogosian, who’s doing off-ice work.
“We’re being extremely careful,” Krueger said. “He’s in good hands working hard but still a ways away from being in any practice.”
Winger Conor Sheary (lower body) practiced today. Evan Rodrigues was the Sabres’ extra forward.