BUFFALO – Six months removed from ankle surgery, fiery Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, as you might expect, is excited to play his first game preseason game tonight.
“I don’t know if the excitement I sense is because it’s a new year and where he’s at physically and being ready to go or playing the Ottawa Senators and (he) doesn’t want (Mike) Hoffman to score tonight,” coach Dan Bylsma said after the Sabres prepared for the preseason home opener inside KeyBank Center.
Lehner, even in an exhibition tilt, clearly doesn’t want to be one-upped by his former Ottawa teammates.
“I feel like I prepared well,” said Lehner, who plans to play the entire game. “It’s a preseason game against a former team. Obviously, I really want to win this one. But for me right now, it’s just to get back into the swing of things and get repetition in and start focusing on the first game of the season.”
A high right ankle sprain Lehner suffered opening night dogged throughout 2015-16, his first season with the Sabres. Lehner, who lost about 40 pounds during the offseason, hasn’t played since March 16.
So far, Lehner’s training camp has gone well. The No. 1 goalie said he needs some repetition tonight.
In other news, Sabres winger Tyler Ennis, out since suffering a season-ending concussion Dec. 30, will also play. The shifty Ennis skated on the left wing with center Zemgus Girgensons and newcomer Kyle Okposo this morning.
“I definitely feel stronger,” Ennis said. “I feel in great shape. I feel faster than in years past. That just adds to the excitement.”
Ennis is also excited to play with Okposo, who will debut after signing a seven-year, $42 million contract July 1.
“He’s smart,” Ennis said. “He’s always in the right spot. He’s a big guy that’s got some really good hands and he’s a good play-maker so he’s well-rounded. He’s kind of unique. He’s a big, strong guy who has all the tools. He has the skill to pass. He was an awesome pickup.”
The rest of tonight’s forward lines from left to right and defense pairs:
– Hudson Fasching, Jean Dupuy, Evan Rodrigues
– Nick Baptiste, Dan Catenacci, Eric Cornel
– Nick Deslauriers, Derek Grant, Matt Moulson
Defense: Brandy Austin, Mac Bennett, Zach Bogosian, Erik Burgdoerfer, Cody Franson, Jake McCabe
Goalie Jason Kasforf will also dress.
Ottawa’s lineup will feature top scorers Hoffman, Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris.
“It looks like a pretty formidable lineup,” Bylsma said.
Sabres center Jack Eichel, just back from the World Cup of Hockey, will skate this afternoon, Bylsma said.