It may only be a preseason game, but that isn't going to stop Robin Lehner's competitive juices from flowing. The Buffalo Sabres goaltender last saw game action on March 16 before undergoing season-ending ankle surgery.
But now he's back, in great physical shape, and ready to start Buffalo's preseason home opener against the Ottawa Senators. He's planning on playing the full 60 minutes.
"I feel like I prepared well. It's a preseason game against a former team. Obviously I really want to win this one," he said after the morning skate at KeyBank Center. "But for me right now, it's just getting back into the swing of things and getting repetition and start focusing on the first game of the season."
Last night, about half of the Sabres camp roster played against the Minnesota Wild at Penn State in a 2-1 loss. Tonight will mark the first game for many other players. Prized free-agent signing Kyle Okposo will make his Buffalo debut and Tyler Ennis' first game since Dec. 30. Brian Duff caught up with them in today's game preview, which you can watch below.
Video: Game Preview: Sabres vs. Senators
The Senators will be bringing a pretty stacked lineup to KeyBank Center for the 7 p.m. faceoff. Dion Phaneuf, Bobby Ryan, Cody Ceci, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman and Craig Anderson will be among those dressing in the game.
"They're a good team here, a pretty stacked up roster. It's going to be exciting," Lehner said. "It's a good opportunity for a lot of guys to show how good they are. If we keep it simple and play hard then we'll be good."
That opportunity knocks for a few young players in the Sabres lineup. Nicholas Baptiste, Hudson Fasching and Evan Rodrigues are among those battling for a roster spot.
Watch: Dan Bylsma | Watch: Robin Lehner | Watch: Tyler Ennis | Watch: Kyle Okposo | Tickets For Tonight
Fasching and Rodrigues both got a taste of NHL action at the end of last season. Fasching logged a goal and an assist in seven contests while Rodrigues notched identical numbers in only a pair.
"I think I came in with a little extra confidence," Rodrigues said of this year's training camp. "Having those two games at the end of the year gave me a little extra motivation for the summer and I'm just going to come into this game trying to prove myself just like I have been. That's what you have to do day in and day out and I'm going to do everything I can to make this team."
In years past, Fasching would have been back on the University of Minnesota's campus by now. This season, he's relishing the opportunity to take part in his first full professional training camp.
"It's definitely different. A lot of nerves, a lot of intensity," he said. "We've got a lot of work in the past three or four days so I'm just excited to get an official preseason game under the belt and I'm excited for tonight."
Buffalo and Ottawa will meet again on Oct. 7 at Canadian Tire Centre. With that being the final game of the preseason for both teams, the Sabres could face a pretty similar looking Senators lineup.
But first, they'll play tonight. You can catch the game on MSG and hear Duffer and Rob Ray on the radio call on WGR 550 starting at 7 p.m.
63 Tyler Ennis - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 21 Kyle Okposo
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 27 Derek Grant - 26 Matt Moulson
71 Evan Rodrigues - 72 Jean Dupuy - 52 Hudson Fasching
86 Eric Cornel - 43 Daniel Catenacci - 73 Nicholas Baptiste
Defensemen: 6 Cody Franson, 29 Jake McCabe, 46 Erik Burgdoerfer, 47 Zach Bogosian, 67 Brady Austin, 81 Mac Bennett
40 Robin Lehner
33 Jason Kasdorf
Power Play (First Unit)
Power Play (Second Unit)