Boos boost Sens' Lehner

Ottawa Senators' Robin Lehner reacts after being scored on by Detroit Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall....

Ottawa Senators' Robin Lehner reacts after being scored on by Detroit Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 PM ET

The boos rained down from the rafters at Scotiabank Place after Senators coach Cory Clouston pulled Robin Lehner from Wednesday night’s game against the Red Wings.

The crowd wasn’t jeering the team’s rookie goalie, however — it was the coach the fans weren’t happy with.

Clouston is well aware his decision to give 19-year-old Lehner the hook after he allowed four goals on 19 shots wasn’t going to please everyone.

But he didn’t expect a response that loud.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be popular,” Clouston said Thursday of his decision to replace Lehner with Brian Elliott, who allowed three goals and suffered his 12th straight loss.

“I didn’t think it was going to be that unpopular. Like I said, it wasn’t done for any other reason than protect (Lehner) and to try to get a win ... to try to change momentum.”

Clouston said he was hoping the goaltending switch would settle his team down.

“There was about three shifts in a row where we were scrambling around,” he said.

“If you go back to our previous games, one goal often kind of rattles us. We’re not a real strong team. We’re a little bit fragile. Two goals, at times, has been the recipe for disaster.

“So, I wasn’t about to leave (Lehner) in that situation where something could go really south. We got a goal the next shift, we responded well and we should have come out of that game with at least one point.”

Lehner heard the crowd’s reaction to his departure and sounded honoured.

“I really wanted to have a good game in front of the fans,” he said.

“Even though I got pulled, it was one of the bigger events in my career to get that kind of support behind me. (The fans) are really nice. Down in (Binghamton) they’re booing me, so it’s a really good feeling and it really helps me. The Murrays (GM Bryan and assistant GM Tim), the team and the fans behind me, really means a lot. It keeps me going and trying to work harder.”

Lehner and Elliott were both on the ice early Thursday with goalie coach Rick Wamsley. The plan is to take Lehner on the team’s upcoming four-game road trip.

There was an interesting twist at practice when Bryan Murray — who normally watches from the stands — stood on the bench for a few minutes.

The GM later returned to his usual spot, but his appearance on the bench prompted a question to Clouston about whether management is all on the same page when it comes to Lehner’s playing time and development.

“A lot of that is going to depend on how he plays,” said Clouston.

“I’m not going to predict whether he has a good game or a bad game. We have to have an idea and a plan that if it’s not working out, you can’t leave a guy like that hanging.

“We spend too much time focusing on one position and I know it’s a very important position right now. He’s a young guy. We’ve got to leave him alone and let him work in practice. We’ve got to let him play his games. If he plays well, great. If he doesn’t, we’ve got to move on. He’s going to learn from his experience.”

Lightning goalie Mike Smith, a potential UFA after this season who has a salary of $2.4 million US, cleared waivers Thursday. Clouston was asked if the club would consider going after another netminder.

“I can only deal with what I’ve got,” he said. “I’m not going to deal with could’ve, should’ves and wish lists. This is what I have as a coach and this is what I’m going to try to win with. That’s all I can focus on.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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