After an offseason of mixed martial arts training, Buffalo Sabres goalie Robin Lehner entered training camp more than 20 pounds lighter in hopes of staying healthy for his second season in Buffalo.
"I've got to go out and perform," Lehner told the Buffalo News on Saturday. "That's what I expect out of myself. That's what I expect out of my teammates. That's what they expect out of me. It's a results-based game, and we've got to go out and perform this year."
Buffalo acquired Lehner from the Ottawa Senators in a trade for a first-round pick (No. 21) at the 2015 NHL Draft. He started Buffalo's season opener against the Senators on Oct. 8 but sustained a high-ankle sprain. The lingering injury limited him to 21 games (5-9-5, 2.47 goals-against average, .924 save percentage) before he had surgery on his right ankle March 30.
Lehner was chosen to represent Team Sweden at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 but pulled out of the tournament to recover from the surgery. He is entering the final season of a three-year, $6.75 million contract he signed with the Senators on July 31, 2014 and can become a restricted free agent after the season.
Lehner has not played more than 36 games in any of his six NHL seasons, but the Sabres signed him hoping he could be their No. 1 goaltender. Despite a 27-point improvement from 2014-15, Buffalo missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth straight season in 2015-16. They acquired defenseman Dmitry Kulikov in a trade with the Florida Panthers on June 25 and signed forward Kyle Okposo to a seven-year contract reportedly worth $42 million on July 1.
"It's a big year for me personally, but I think it's another big year for our team," Lehner said. "It's a season where we can start putting our mark in and do everything we can to try and make the playoffs and take our first step."