InGoal Update: Robin Lehner sounds off as AHL yo-yo continues
… Plus Nikolai Khabibulin almost drops the mitts after attack; San Jose goalie gets surgery for Valentine’s Day as Sharks run out of goalies; Senators’ Robin Lehner has choice words after bouncing around again; Hiller returns and more in Feb. 14 Update.
Robin Lehner was admittedly struggling with being bounced around between the National and American League earlier this month by Ottawa, and the Senators’ Swedish puck-stopping prospect had some more choice words after being sent down to Binghamton on an emergency basis Sunday at the tail end of his first westcoast NHL road trip.
This time, however, it was for the fans.
With B-Sens goalies Barry Brust and Mike Brodeur both out battling a flu bug, Lehner arrived just in time to backstop Binghamton to a 4-3 overtime victory over Michael Leighton and the Adirondack Phantoms on Sunday. And the the 19-year-old Swede said the 26-save win was that much sweeter because of the treatment he received from the fans at Glens Falls Civic Center.
“It was nice (to win) because the fans here are really dumb,” Lehner told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin in of the megaphone-wielding fans in the post-game report. “They scream at you, and one guy has a thing that really sounds a lot in your ears. It’s good for them. They’re helping their team out, of course, and it’s hard to play here. … I got a lot more tired as the game went on; it’s hard to travel five hours before the game, come in and miss half of warmups and all that stuff, but you try to get over it.”
Lehner, who was making his first AHL appearance since before the All Star break, was expected back in Ottawa to start Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, another team struggling with its goaltending depth (Al Montoya, acquired in a trade last week, got the 7-6 overtime win over Buffalo on Sunday after sixth-stringer Mikko Koskinen was pulled). It’s also something of a rematch for Lehner, who lost his cool and shoved now-injured Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin while skating off the ice during a Feb. 5 game on Long Island, nearly touching off a brawl and resulting in a penalty that would cost his team the game on the resulting penalty.
Lehner’s start is all part of a new alternating goalie system with Brian Elliott that has been recently implemented by Ottawa coach Cory Clouston. If nothing else it should help him feel more part of the team, something he struggled with amidst all the back and forth.
“I play the best when I am calm and the situation right here, right now, it doesn’t really let me to be as calm as I want,” Lehner told InGoal Magazine. “Nothing about the way we play, but about my situation in the team. When I get into a team then I get calm, but right now every game is like life or death. Every game is a new experience for me and of course I am not going to be calm in new experiences. I need to experience all this stuff and then I can get calm, and when I feel calm, I play better.”
Khabibulin throws a punch as goalies continue to mix it up
Speaking of calm, cool and the Senators, normally stoic Edmonton veteran Nikolai Khabibulin nearly lost his during a game against Ottawa, chopping at forward Chris Neil with his stick then whacking him across a helmet-less head with his glove.
Senators counterpart, Brian Elliott, skated to centre ice but decided not to cross the line, which was fine by Khabibulin, who quickly regretted the only time he ventured through the neutral zone to pick a fight with an opponent:
“It was Grant Fuhr,” Khabibulin told the Edmonton Journal. “He kind of picked me up and pinned me against the boards. I felt my skates were in the air. Referee was asking if you guys are going to fight and I’m like, ‘No.’ “
As for Khabibulin’s latest punch, The Score television network has footage of the latest in the NHL’s new trend of goalies as goons:
With Pittsburgh backup Brent Johnson getting into a second dust up against the Islanders over the weekend (just nine days after breaking Rick Dipietro’s face in the first) and the recent scrap between off-ice friends Tim Thomas and Carey Price, there has been lots of talk about goalies dropping the gloves (and blockers), including some good quotes in a Vancouver Province feature that were limited to the print edition:
“Stopping pucks and having guys stand in front of you and coming to you at the net is probably a little more dangerous,” said Chicago’s Marty Turco, whose lone dustup was against “Pokey” Reddick in an IHL game in 1998, and a moment he was not especially keen to share or relive. “It seems pretty asinine to go and get hurt for no reason.
As happy as we are to keep bringing you the goalie fight highlights, InGoal couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Happy Valentine’s Day surgery for Stalock as Sharks run out of targets
While the rest of the world exchanges Valentine’s Day cards, candies, and chocolate, San Jose puck-stopping prospect Alex Stalock will have to settle for Hospital food and Get Well Soon cards. He’s not alone among Sharks’ goaltenders when it comes to the second part.
Stalock was scheduled to have surgery Monday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to have a nerve reconnected after it was severed by an opponent’s skate during a game 10 days ago, making him one of three San Jose stoppers out with injury.
It was the ultimate in high to low for Stalock, who earlier that week won his NHL debut in relief of Antti Niemi with his parents watching in the stands. But San Jose sent him back to the AHL between their games, and Stalock’s season ended with one unfortunate step as Manchester forward Dwight King came down on the back of his leg with just four minutes left in the game.
“There are worse injuries in hockey and I’m lucky that I’ve never had a serious one until now,” Stalock told the Duluth News Tribune . “It’s just going to be another challenge, another bump in the road, and it will make things just that much better when I do get over this. The back of the leg is pretty vulnerable to getting cut. I had it happen to my upper quadriceps in practice once at (the University of Minnesota Duluth), but just needed a couple of stitches. This was a freak thing.”
It has left the Sharks and their AHL affiliate in Worcester short of goaltenders. Antero Niittymaki remains out with what was originally supposed to be a minor groin injury suffered during a morning skate in Vancouver way back on January 20, leading to the now infamous signing of a local college stopper Jordan White and an emergency recall of junior goalie J.P. Anderson.
Niittymaki since re-aggravated the injury and has left the Sharks’ current seven-game road trip to return to San Jose, and the situation has become grave for goaltending with both the big club and its AHL affiliate.
With Thomas Greiss loaned out to the Swedish Elite League before the season, and Stalock out, the Sharks have been riding Niemi while using Carter Hutton, who has just 16 games of pro experience in the AHL, as his backup. Meanwhile in Worcester, prospect Tyson Sexsmith was called up from the ECHL, but saw stars after taking a hard practice shot off the mask and is now out indefinitely.
That leaves the junior Sharks with recent free agent additions Daren Machesney, who is already playing with his third AHL team, and seventh team overall – this season alone – and Billy Sauer, who was with Gwinett in the ECHL after bouncing around between four ECHL teams last season. The put Machesney in the unique position of being able to avenge being cut by AHL Springfield after three goals in just nine minutes of their home-opening loss way back on Oct. 9 – his only other AHL action all season.
Machesney, 24, did just that Friday night, stopping all 25 shots in a 5-0 shutout victory over Springfield.
“That kind of started a whole bunch of bad (stuff) for me,” Machesney told MassLive.com of the home opener with Springfield. “I kind of looked at tonight as a restart to try and get my career back on track. No better place to come back and try and fix it then where it all started. It was a cool opportunity.”
Even cooler since Machesney said he was almost done with hockey, though his recent experience helped handle the big lead:
“The last game I played (Jan. 22 for ECHL Elmira) we were up 6-1 and wound up losing 8-7,” he said. “So I always learn from my experiences. Three weeks ago, I was twenty minutes away from not playing hockey. So this is cool.”
One-timers from around the Goaltending World (Wide Web):
~ Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller was back in goal Sunday after sitting out a week with “fatigue and lightheadedness” and the Ducks looked like a team eager to protect their star, allowing just 12 shots as Hiller recorded an easy shutout in Edmonton.
Of course, when you are used to seeing a lot of rubber – Hiller was second in the NHL to Carolina’s Cam Ward in shots (1,484) and saves (1,373) despite missing most of the previous three games – quiet nights aren’t necessarily the easiest ones.
“They didn’t have a shot for the first 10 minutes and you are waiting for that first one, that first save, but in the end, the less shots they have on our net, the less opportunities they have to score. It’s always a give and take,” said Hiller, who visited a concussion specialist last week. “I’m definitely not complaining about not having too many shots, but coming back after a long time, one or two more shots wouldn’t have been bad. I don’t know if it was my easiest (shutout). They had a couple of good opportunities with odd-man rushes and backdoor plays and I thought I had a couple of good saves — great saves — at the right moment, so it wasn’t as easy as it looked.”
Speaking of the Ducks, recently signed Ray Emery is expected to have his first practice with their AHL affiliate in Syracuse on Monday after immigration issues delayed his arrival from Ontario. As he continues a remarkable comeback from a career-threatening injury that required removing one bone from his leg to replace another, Emery doesn’t think it will take too long to get prepared to play games.
“I definitely need to skate this week, and get the timing back from professional shooters,” he said on a conference call. “It takes a bit to get back. I’m confident it won’t take long. But at the same time, I know I have to work to get back there.”
Colorado No.1 Craig Anderson was expected to rejoin the Avalanche on Monday after leaving the team Thursday to attend to a family matter, according to the Denver Post.
“Give me a break, they scored goals. I’m just frustrated.”
~ Sabres Ryan Miller when asked how he felt after giving up seven goals on 26 shots in an overtime loss to the Islanders.