Lehner accepts learning curve

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:29 AM ET

MONTREAL -- When the Senators re-signed Craig Anderson and then Alex Auld, they also resigned Robin Lehner.

Yes, they resigned their top prospect to the fact that he was going back to Binghamton.

Just two months past his 20th birthday and with only one yo-yo pro season under his belt, Lehner understands management's rationale that he needs more game experience in the minors before taking the next step.

He just doesn't agree with it.

"Kind of knowing the answers before getting them ... it's not an easy situation," the big Swedish goalie said before playing the full 60 minutes of Saturday's game in Montreal. "I'm doing my best to be patient right now. They're the bosses."

But?

"I had a year last year where I kept on saying to all you guys, when you all had the same question to me ... 'how are you feeling, you're up here, you're not playing games, it's not good for your development'... I think that was the story of Robin Lehner last year. It was (that) I was not getting development," Lehner told reporters. "And I always said the same thing to you. I'm getting better here than I am down there."

In Ottawa, Lehner was the finger in the dyke until Anderson arrived. With Pascal Leclaire hurting and Brian Elliott struggling, he saw eight games of NHL action. He had a 1-4 record with a hefty 3.52 G.A.A. and a low, .888 save percentage.

For the B-Sens, he posted a 10-8-2 record, 2.70 G.A.A. and .912 save percentage.

"A lot of that experience up here made me play good in the playoffs down there," said Lehner, who would shine brightly (14-4, 2.10 G.A.A., .939) as the MVP of Binghamton's playoff run to the AHL championship. "A lot of that experience, getting faster ... obviously it's a little bit better shots up here. Better shooters. And when you get into practice habits with these guys, then you go down, if you take away the mental factor about being sent down, you actually come down more of a faster goalie. I think that practice did lots for me. That's part of my development.

"Obviously, playing 60 games in one of the best leagues in the world, that can't be bad either. But every year, I've always took a step. From one team, going to the higher team, then to junior, then the AHL and then last year too, I went a little earlier than my plan to come up here ... I wouldn't want to come down from what I had last year. That's just a dream of mine, because I try to move forward ... We'll see if I can get 60 games down there and some up here, I would be happy with that too.

"But my dream is here."

At least 99 of every 100 hockey people would agree that Lehner should spend an entire season in Bingo. Still, you've got to like the guy's bring-on-the-world attitude, too. He has exactly the combination of confidence and fearlessness you want in a goalie.

It's the right way to handle Lehner, who has the talent and competitiveness to become a franchise player.

But can you blame him for wanting to get on the faster track?

"It'd be nice to be in one place someday. to kind of get your life started, too," said Lehner. "To enjoy your life, being on one team, and knowing this is the team, and just focusing on doing the same thing every day, try to get a routine.

"I believe (playing in the NHL would be best for me) but I also believe the organization knows a lot more than I know. I'm 20. I've been over her for 2 1/2 years now. I know there's a lot of cases where they (call) up goalies that are too young, and it goes down for them. Every person is different. I don't think I'm that kind of goalie. There's a lot of goalies that went like that, and I understand they have to be careful."

He just doesn't have to like it.

STARTS AND STOPS: "Seventy-four looks good," one NHL scout said in the Bell Centre media room after the first period Saturday night. He was referring to the Senators No. 74, Mark Borowiecki, and he was right. The 22-year-old Kanata defenceman has strung together some solid outings this week. Against the Habs on two consecutive nights, he was defensively sound and physical ... Nikita Filtov isn't overly concerned about the fact he has yet to score his first goal as a Senator. "I think it's more about how you play right now, how you get into the system," he said Saturday morning in Ottawa. "For example, last year I had a really good pre-season. I scored four goals or something in six games. So it doesn't pretty much mean anything."

BETWEEN PERIODS: You would think it'd be tough for a veteran who's assured of a job to get up for a night of crashing and banging in a meaningless game. Not so, said Chris Neil, the Senators resident crasher and banger. "Exhibitions are what gets your body used to the pounding, so you're ready for the opening night," said Neil. "Obviously it's a long season, and the wear and tear on your body takes it's toll, but half the battle is preparing your body for it." And the other half is surviving ... There were be those watching NHL games season who will ask, "Who's Erik Condra?" The 211th pick of the 2006 entry draft gets that. "Yeah, I think a lot of people may be surprised," said Condra, who played 26 games with Ottawa last season and has now made it to the NHL as a fulltimer. "I mean, sometimes I even surprise myself, from a year going on to the next year.". Part of his ability to emerge just two seasons out of Notre Dame is his versatility. Most of it is his smarts. "Even if I play with more skilled players, I can cover them on defence and help them score," said Condra, who resembles a young Chris Kelly on the ice whether he agrees or not. "I'm not sure. He's a centre. He's a smart player. I don't know if I'm the same player as him. He's a really good player and he's smart. I think I'm smart. I know where to be. So if you want to compare like that, then you can. If I end up in that role, that's great. I'd be more than happy to help chip in like that." ... In answering one question at the morning skate, Paul MacLean started with "it's a little bit of both." Just 6,492 of them and he'll be tied with Cory Clouston in that department.


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