BUFFALO – Having developed in the Ottawa organization when Tim Murray was the Senators’ assistant general manager, new Sabres goalie Robin Lehner knows the Buffalo GM well.
“He’s got a very nice smiling face,” Lehner joked about the notoriously serious Murray during a conference call Tuesday. “You guys can see that a whole lot. He’s a very serious guy to handle.”
Kidding aside, the two share a mutual respect. When the Sabres needed a starting goalie this offseason, Murray made Lehner his No. 1 target. The Sabres acquired the 23-year-old Swede with center David Legwand on Friday for the 21st pick in the NHL Draft.
“It shows he believes in me,” Lehner said. “That’s special. Some memories from (Binghamton), we won the Calder Cup (in the AHL) there. He’s been a big part of my development.”
A scary concussion – teammate Clarke MacArthur ran into Lehner in his crease – stalled his development last season. He missed the final three months and lost his job when an unknown AHL goalie, Andrew Hammond, went unbeaten in his first 15 starts.
As the Senators roared up the standings into a playoff spot, Lehner was suffering from “constant headaches.” Watching wasn’t easy.
“You want to be the guy who helps the team win, 100 percent,” he said. “I think me included and everyone else on the team, we didn’t have a good first half of the season. I think Hammond, he played amazing. I think if you look at the numbers, all the other guys, they stepped up in the second half of the season.”
Lehner said his recovery is “going good.”
“I’ve been very anxious, started getting my head together,” he said. “My headaches, (they’ve) been gone now for a while. I’ve been working out now for a few weeks. I sat around not doing pretty much anything at all for three, four months. That’s the first time in my career I’ve gone not moving for that long.
“I’m doing everything I can now to get back into shape. It’s two and a half months I have until go time. I’m going to make it count.”
The Sabres are counting on Lehner, who has never played more than 36 NHL games, to handle a heavy workload perhaps upwards of 60 games. The only other goalie on their roster, Chad Johnson, is a career backup.
“I don’t think that will be an issue,” Lehner said about playing regularly. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity, but I got to deserve it, I got to perform, then we’ll go from there.”
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Lehner doesn’t believe the concussion – “It was not a hockey play,” he said – will hamper his aggressive style. Type his name into Youtube.com, and fights, hits and outbursts pop up.
For a goalie, Lehner possesses a fearsome edge. Don’t get near his net.
“I think I’m competitive,” he said about his style. “I think over the last few years I’ve done a lot of positioning, adjusted a little bit. I think I don’t move as much. I just think I’m very competitive when I’m on the ice. … I feel like I’m pretty calm out there. I have a lot to prove and I like the challenge.”