Former Sabres goalie Lehner has turned his life around

Robin Lehner made his return to Buffalo on Monday night

Paul Hamilton
December 31, 2018 - 7:52 pm

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - When Robin Lehner arrived in Buffalo on Sunday, he led the NHL in goals-against average and was second in save percentage. Lehner has put his life on the right path after exposing the demons that have plagued him for years. Lehner was happy to be back at the arena, “It was mixed emotions, I can’t really put a feeling to it, except for it’s nice to be back. There are great people over there and it’s a great organization.”

I asked Lehner if there were any hard feelings since they didn’t give him a qualifying over and let him go for nothing. He said, “No, absolutely not. I could’ve finished in a better manner, I had a great meeting with Jason [Botterill] and he’s a good man and this organization has good people.”

Lehner never got a chance in this city because Tim Murray traded a No. 1 pick to get him. Many fans judged him before he ever put on a sweater and every single goal he let in was his fault. Despite that, Lehner liked it here, “There were a lot of good things that came out of this city for me and I also had a lot of hard times here personally, but hockey related you can't ask for better fans. It didn't matter how we were struggling they was always support here, there was always an almost full rink here every night and you can't ask more from the fans and this city, you really can't and they deserve the success that's happening this year."

Lehner checked himself into rehab for substance abuse after contemplating suicide. Lehner had said he put his family through too much. He has been clean and sober and has changed his life. Lehner said it’s a daily battle, “It’s not hockey related, I’m working on my issues and I’m working every day to be a better person and that’s my new journey and I’m just happy I can to a really, really good organization that’s shown tremendous support off the ice and on the ice and I couldn’t be happier."

Lehner still has a lot of friends in the Sabres locker room, but he said he hasn’t talked to many of them because he needed to close himself off, “When everything got exposed there was a lot of outreach, but it’s been a little bit different for me.

“I’ve been shielding myself away and been focusing on my recovery and my career and my life, so it’s been total focus on me and my wife and two kids and showing up to work every day.”

Lehner wishes the Sabres well and still watches how they do. He hopes they have success, “I’ve been following the club and I’m very happy that how good they’re doing and there are a lot of good people in that locker room and I think there’s a lot of talent and a lot of skill in there and obviously a lot of good additions.”

Lehner came into the game not allowing a goal in his last two games, covering 94 minutes. After the second period, he had only given up two goals in 254 minutes of work. The Sabres were putting pucks his way, but after 40 minutes the former Sabre had 27 saves.

Buffalo finally broke through on Lehner at 10:14 of the third period. Mathew Barzal took a dumb slashing penalty and Kyle Okposo scored his first goal in 22 games with a nice wrist shot from the right circle. Tage Thompson took Lehner's eyes away with a good screen in front.

Lehner always did well when he played against Ottawa, and he did it again against the Sabres. He earned the first star with 39 saves and an assist on the empty net goal.

After the game, Phil Housley said that Jack Eichel had an upper-body injury, but he doesn't expect him to miss too much time.

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