Senators' Lehner enjoying fine season in AHL

Robin Lehner has had an outstanding week in goal for the Binghamton Senators. (Tony Caldwell/QMI...

Robin Lehner has had an outstanding week in goal for the Binghamton Senators. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency/Files)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:40 PM ET

Like most 21-year-olds with a free afternoon, Robin Lehner spent some serious hours on the couch Wednesday.

In between snacks, he decided to take a break from his Sons of Anarchy marathon to play the new Call Of Duty, Black Ops 2.

From experience, he decided on this autumn day to steer clear of the Leafs — or at least their followers — without camouflage.

“The last Call Of Duty (Modern Warfare 3) I made the mistake of tweeting out my name,” said Lehner. “Toronto fans used to come in and just team-kill me, so I’m not doing that again.”

Lehner, of course, has more pressing battles. Though he won’t admit to it, the Senators’ most important prospect is presently trying to surpass former Senator Curtis McElhinney as the top active pro goalie in North America. McElhinney, who had a gulp of coffee with Ottawa in 2010-11, is 9-2-1 with a 1.41 GAA and .953 save percentage for the Springfield Falcons (Columbus Blue Jackets affiliate). He’s 29 and should come back to earth.

Lehner’s limit is the sky, but with lofty numbers himself (6-2-1, 1.77 GAA, .945 save percentage), the 46th choice in the 2009 draft is trying to keep his feet on the ground.

“I think the whole team has come together very well,” said Lehner, referring to the 7-4-1 B-Sens. “As for myself, I’m taking steps, and it’s getting better. It’s a little bit easier this year, too. It’s a little bit different than last year. I made a couple of changes myself too, so I’m happy.”

The B-Sens finished at the very bottom of their division in 2011-12, the season after Lehner led them to a Calder Cup championship. While he’s had his ups and downs, at least some of that has to do with the guys in front of him.

“I have lots of stuff left to improve,” said Lehner, who has been called up to play in 13 games for Ottawa over the past two years. “I haven’t really had that chance to be as consistent as I want. That stuff is on me, but it’s also a team effort, a team game. Last year we couldn’t get it going, but the year before that, the only consistency I could come up with was on the Calder Cup run.”

He doesn’t want to become a permanent resident or anything, but Lehner is comfortable in Binghamton. He lives with his girlfriend, their dog and Swedish teammate Andre Petersson. He weighs 215, or 30 pounds less than he did when he hoisted the AHL’s championship trophy. He keeps an eye on the NHL lockout — and because he is someone who has never been shy to speak his mind, you have to ask for his opinion on that.

Reluctantly, Lehner chips in.

“I just think it’s unnecessary, the whole thing,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m not there. I see the highlights on the TV, when I get home ... so many people get affected by this. Especially fans. I think there’s too much greed involved, for being such a big business and so much money already involved, I think it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way, I don’t think.

“I’m probably not the right guy to have too many comments on the thing anyway. I think it’s just weird.”

When the weirdness ends, Lehner could be making his way to Ottawa. Craig Anderson is the Senators’ No. 1 goalie and Ben Bishop is tabbed as his backup — but the latter could be in for a fight if management doesn’t give him the job just because he has a one-way contract and Lehner does not.

“There’s still a time and place,” Lehner said asked about his future in the NHL. “Obviously, Craig is a great goaltender, and he’s the guy there right now. It’s all about what Ottawa wants, and how I play and stuff. There’s Ben Bishop there, too. You just have to sit back and see how it plays out.

“I don’t think anything is a bad scenario right now. Binghamton is a nice place to play. It’s a good league, and obviously, I would like to see the lockout end, so everything could clear up for a lot of people.

“I’m not looking forward anymore, I just try to stay in the present. If there would be a chance to prove yourself (in the NHL) sometime, of course I wouldn’t say no to that. But it’s far-fetched right now and I’m not there right now.”

No, he’s in the minors, fighting for team victories, fighting for his career ... and just fighting. His scrap with Syracuse Crunch goalie Riku Helenius a few weeks ago made the highlight reels — and did not at all disappoint Senators coach Paul MacLean, who said that, considering the circumstances, he would have dropped the gloves then and there himself.

“I’m learning still,” said Lehner. “It happened. I didn’t plan on doing it. The goalie came down to me. How would I look, a Swedish guy (turning) down a Finnish goalie? Not good in the Swedish papers, I’ll tell you that.”


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