LONG ISLAND — Sorry, but there are no cucumbers as cool as Robin Lehner.
About to become the first teenager to ever start a regular season game between the Senators’ pipes — when the team has lost six in a row and making more turnovers than Pillsbury — the large Swede is suffering from no anxiety whatsoever.
“Not nervous,” Lehner said, when asked of his feelings about 30 hours before his NHL debut against the New York Islanders. “More excited. It’s going to be really fun.”
Senators coach Cory Clouston announced his starting goalie a day earlier than usual — suggesting that in this case, he may have been told who he was going to go with by management. But then, it’s clear Brian Elliott needs to step back and regroup, as well.
Elliott was pulled after letting in five goals on 27 shots through two periods in Boston Tuesday. It was Elliott’s 10th straight start.
“It’s been a tough situation for him,” said Clouston. “We haven’t had a lot of support, obviously, and Robin was at the world championships, so we didn’t have that option. (Mike) Brodeur has only played a handful of games and to me he’s not at the top of his game.
“Good opportunity for (Elliott) to sit back for a game and allow Robin to go in there and to be good for us.”
The 19-year-old Lehner plans to be just that.
Asked if he felt it was an accomplishment making it to the NHL at such a tender age, Lehner replied:
“Just being on this team is an accomplishment for me. To get drafted was an accomplishment ... everything new is good for me, of course. I just enjoy my time here so much.”
In his first year as a pro, Lehner has performed well. He has a 5-5-1 record, to go with a solid 2.65 GAA and .912 save percentage, but he also went through a stretch where he played well but his Binghamton teammates just couldn’t score.
Lehner, who did get in a couple of relief appearances for the Senators earlier, rejoins Ottawa having won his last four starts in the minors.
Originally, the Senators were reluctant to call him up, preferring instead to have Lehner spend the season developing in the AHL. There are a number of goalies who’s progress was stunted because they were rushed into the NHL.
But Lehner, a very serious man, appears to be not like a lot of other goalies.
“I don’t look past this game,” he said when asked if he viewed this as an opportunity he might run with. “My main focus is not to go in and steal someone’s job right now. That’s not the way it is. That’s not the situation that’s here, either. Pascal (Leclaire) is hurt, that’s the first reason why I’m up here. Then Elliott has been playing a lot of games. He needs to be relieved. I think that’s why I’m playing.
“My main focus is just go in and try to help this team to a win, contribute what I can. Just do my best.”
And leading up to it, he’s not going to spend a whole lot of time worrying about how he’ll perform.
“I won’t think much more about the game,” said Lehner. “It’s any other hockey game, just on a little higher level here. Just go in and don’t think too much. Just try to contribute to this team and help them as much as I can, to turn this around.”