BUFFALO, N.Y. – Despite being placed on waivers this afternoon, Joakim Andersson still gets a shot at scoring on an old friend from back home when the Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres face off tonight at First Niagara Center.
Tonight will be Robin Lehner’s third start for the Sabres since returning from a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss more than three months of the season.
Andersson and Lehner attended the same school in Gothenburg, Sweden, where they played on the same junior team in the Frolunda program.
“We went to school together in Gothenburg, so I’ve shot a lot of shots on him,” Andersson said.
The two have remained in contact since their school days, even working out together during the summer months.
While Andersson hasn’t scored on Lehner in three NHL games, the Sabres’ goalie was relieved to know that he won’t be victimized by his personal nemesis tonight.
Johan Franzen has scored five goals in three-plus games against Lehner, when he was sharing the goaltending duties for the Ottawa Senators.
“I just told my goalie coach, ‘Franzen’s not in. I like that,’” Lehner said. “He’s one of those players. I think every goalie has these guys that have you beat. It doesn’t matter if he shoots a bad shot, I don’t know. He’s got me beat.”
Franzen continues to deal with post-concussion syndrome and hasn't played since the second game of the season.
Lehner’s first encounter with the Red Wings came during his rookie season. He entered the game in relief of starter Brian Elliott during Franzen’s five-goal game in Ottawa, on Feb. 2, 2010.
Franzen also recorded a hat trick in Lehner’s last appearance against the Wings nearly two years ago. In four games, including three starts, against Detroit, Lehner has posted a 1-2-0 record with a 5.16 goals-against average and a .837 save percentage.
While he won’t have Franzen to contend with, Lehner knows how tough other Red Wings, like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist, will be tonight.
“Datsyuk is Datsyuk, he has a lot of respect in this league for the skill that he has,” Lehner said. “Zetterberg is a pretty cool guy, also a hard worker with some skill to him. Obviously, Nyquist is a skilled player. (Petr) Mrazek has done a fantastic job. It’s really fun to see him flourish like he’s doing, just a competitive goalie. Their back end with (Niklas) Kronwall and all their D is fairly solid, very consistent, so all in all they have a great team.”
One of the taller goalies in the league, Lehner, who is 6-foot-5, probably owns the shortest goalie stick in the NHL. With skates on the stick comes to the bottom of Lehner’s ribcage.
“I’m not going to try to score a goal anytime soon, so I don’t need it to be able to shoot it high across the ice,” Lehner said. “I’m probably the only goalie to do it, but I’ve done it for like four years. I cannot handle a long stick. Short stick is easy, especially when I have to stop the puck behind the net. I feel like it’s easier to poke check.”
Another advantage, Lehner said, is the butt end of the shorter stick.
“I find that when I get beat on the blocker side it (the puck) hits my knob a lot because the knob is right at the corner of the post and crossbar,” he said. “It sits there and it’s nice security sometimes.”