Nathan Lieuwen has dealt with multiple concussions over the course of his career, so he was very careful in dealing with his latest injury.
The 22-year-old goaltender was hurt late in Buffalo’s game in Philadelphia on April 8 when Flyers forward Jay Rosehill collided with Lieuwen’s head in the crease. Lieuwen was diagnosed with a concussion and just like that, his season was over.
It took Lieuwen five to six weeks to get back on the ice and he said he took some extra time after that to make sure he was all right. Monday morning, he was back skating at First Niagara Center as the Sabres held the first practice of their week-long development camp.
“I am fantastic, doing really well,” he said. “It sticks in your mind, but I think that’s part of the reason I’m so thrilled that I got healthy so fast. I’m very pleased with how quickly I made progress and I’m feeling really good right now.”
Lieuwen played seven games for the Sabres last season, logging a 2.98 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in this first stint in the NHL. He hopes to have another chance soon. Having that experience also gave him a major confidence boost.
“It was incredible. Just to get a taste of it,” Lieuwen said. “Now I know how badly I really do want it and I’m excited to have had that opportunity.”
He’s one of five goaltenders in camp. The other goaltenders are Andrey Makarov, who carried the load for the Amerks while Lieuwen and Matt Hackett were in Buffalo, 2013 draft pick Calvin Petersen and Swedish netminders Linus Ullmark and Jonas Johansson. Ullmark was the goaltender of the year in Sweden and Johansson was selected by the Sabres in the third round of this year’s draft.
Is there extra pressure knowing how many other young, talented goaltenders are in the system?
“It’s the same as it always has been. I worry about myself and I earn everything I get,” he said. “You talk about a depth chart or how many guys are out there or just how many in general, goalies – there are two on a team. But you play well and good things will happen.
“…At the end of the day, it’s whoever’s playing well now. Maybe there is a little bit of ‘What you have done and where you have been.’ But for me, it’s all about playing well whenever I get on the ice.”