TORONTO – Ralph Krueger’s first taste of being an NHL head coach ended with mixed results.
Krueger led the Oilers from behind the bench after Edmonton head coach Tom Renney suffered an injury in practice. While the Oilers under Krueger got off to a promising start, they eventually fell 6-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.
“We had some laughs before the game,” Krueger said after the game. “We won’t have that many (laughs) right now but I’m sure (Renney) will come back (Tuesday).”
Renney was cut and required stitches when a puck deflected off a stick and hit him in the side of the head during Monday’s practice.
Krueger, who coached the Swiss national team for more than a decade, was given the opportunity to coach while Renney stayed at the team’s hotel as a precaution.
It was the first time Renney had to miss a game since being hired before the 2010-2011 season.
Playing without their head coach, the Oilers started strong with Jordan Eberle scoring his first of two goals on the night just 21 seconds into the game, but the Leafs took control in the second period.
“It wasn’t different at all,” Eberle said of having Krueger calling the shots instead of Renney. “They manage the bench the same way. They’re both good coaches. They’re smart and intelligent. I’m sure they talk and they think the game the same way.
“We really just wanted to win for (Renney) after taking one in the face and then obviously (Krueger) getting behind the bench so it’s no fault to them.”
Krueger said Renney will travel with the team as they head onto Detroit, where they’ll play the Red Wings.
What is still uncertain, however, is the status of forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who left the game in the third period after taking a hit from the Leafs’ Mike Brown.
The rookie appeared to favour the same left shoulder that cost him a month of action. Monday’s game was just his second in the Edmonton lineup since coming back from the injury.
“It’s something we want to assess (Tuesday). It was precautionary we took him off,” Krueger said. “It seemed light, actually even looking at it now so we’ll assess it (Tuesday) and it was precautionary to not put him back in.”