Sabres’ Lehner looks to maintain cool vs. Senators
OTTAWA — Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner will have “comfortable” surroundings as he tries to back up his talk with action at Canadian Tire Centre on Tuesday night.
Lehner, who called out his team after Sunday’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks, is sure to get the start against the Ottawa Senators, the organization that drafted him with a second-round pick eight years ago.
Since being traded to the Sabres in the summer of 2015, Lehner owns a 3-0-2 mark with a 1.18 goals-against average and .961 save percentage versus his old team.
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Lehner’s last outing against Ottawa was Feb. 4, a 37-save shutout that marked the first time a former Senators goalie had blanked his old team.
“I don’t know, he might have left some voodoo dolls in the back there … we’ve got to find some in the lockers and get those pins out of them,” Senators coach Guy Boucher joked on Monday.
“I know he’s buddies with the players. He’s probably extremely motivated because he got traded. I can’t talk for him. All I know is we have not been our best against Buffalo. We’ve won one game out of six, if you include the exhibition games. All I know is we’ve got to do better against them. That’s clear.”
To do that, winger Bobby Ryan said the Senators have to get to the Buffalo net and make life more difficult for Lehner.
“He’s really comfortable playing against us,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to make him uncomfortable. We’ve gotta try to talk to him.”
The Sabres (23-23-10) had hoped to pick up some ground Sunday, but the loss to the Canucks left them five points back of the last wild-card spot.
Lehner, who has faced an average of 39 shots over his last nine starts, did a lot of talking after the game.
“We make two plays, score two goals and that’s about it,” said Lehner, who ranted about the lack of team play. “It’s not even disappointing anymore. I’m starting to get angry.”
The Senators (29-18-6) were more than pleased with their most recent outing, Saturday’s 3-0 win over the New York Islanders that Boucher called one of their best team efforts of the season. Ottawa sits six points back and has five games in hand on the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens, who are now on their bye week.
Back in goal Tuesday for the Senators will be Craig Anderson, who earned the shutout against the Islanders while making his first start in two months. Boucher says he’s going to be smart with the way he brings his No. 1 goalie back to full stride.
“You want to give him his rest that he wants,” Boucher said, “but you want to make sure maybe at first you give him a reasonable amount of games to be able to recuperate.”
The Senators are expected to stray from the 11-forward, seven-defensemen alignment they’ve used in winning their last two games as Boucher said Chris Neil will return to the lineup.
The Sabres, meanwhile, want to move forward as quickly as possible.
“We’ve got to stop blaming each other, blaming whatever we’re blaming,” center Jack Eichel told The Buffalo Daily News on Monday. “Just come to the rink every day, enjoy the fact that you play in the NHL. I don’t know. For me, I think I’m more than past just getting worked up about it. I’m not going to change last night’s outcome with my attitude today, so there’s nothing I can do other than come to the rink today and try to get better at the things that I need to get better at, bring a positive attitude and prepare myself to play against Ottawa.”