OTTAWA - Once considered the future of the franchise, Robin Lehner will now provide the opposition as the Ottawa Senators open the regular season Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Senators closed the book on Lehner this summer when they traded the 24-year-old goaltender to the Sabres and opted instead to keep veteran Craig Anderson and sign Andrew Hammond to a three-year contract extension.
Anderson will get the start against Lehner, while Hammond won't even back-up as he recovers from a groin strain.
"It's going to be fun, I haven't played against him ever I think so it will be interesting," said Senators captain Erik Karlsson. "He's a good goaltender so it's going to be a challenge scoring goals on him. He's going to be very motivated to play us. I know he had a good summer and he's feeling good about himself, but at the same time it's going to be Buffalo against Ottawa. . . I don't think that's going to be in our head too much. Hopefully we can win."
Karlsson surprised everyone Wednesday showing up with a new short haircut in place of his trademark long flow. The 25-year-old said he'd been thinking about it and decided it was time, plus it was better to deal with the attention before the start of the regular season.
After finishing last season as the hottest team in the NHL, going 23-4-4 down the stretch, the Senators would love to pick up where they left off as they start the season with three games in four nights, two on the road, and all three against division rivals.
The Senators have not lost a road game in regulation since February 3 (11-0-3) and while they realize they might not be able to produce at the torrid pace they did last year, the Senators believe they can be a competitive force.
"I like our team. I'll put our team up against anybody," said Bobby Ryan. "We've showed that we have the ability to do that at the end of the year. The core is back and we still have that feeling from last year around us so I like us. I think we're deep, I think we have a lot of character in the room and I think we're going to be able to come back in a lot of games when we have to."
Despite few changes to the roster Senators coach Dave Cameron believes his team is stronger.
"It's older, it's been through it," said Cameron. "It's more experienced. That's the biggest advantage we have."
Like Cameron, Karlsson believes last year's experience will pay dividends, but stresses the importance of keeping things in perspective.
"We want to play well against Buffalo and whether we win or lose that one we've got to move forward," Karlsson said. "That's kind of the mentality we want to have this year is don't put too much pressure on any certain game, but at the same time try to go out there and do your best and if we do our best in here I think our outcome at the end of the day is going to be better than worse."
Notes: Kyle Turris will be an alternate captain as Chris Phillips remains sidelined with a back injury. . . Clarke MacArthur will likely be a game-time decision Thursday as he awaits medical clearance. . .The Senators announced they'd sent Matt Puempel to Binghamton. . . Bobby Ryan will be announcing an endorsement deal with Procter & Gamble in the coming days for Head & Shoulders.