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Lehner aiming to score net gain for Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
NEWARK, N.J. — At one end of the rink tonight will stand the winningest goaltender in National Hockey League history.

And at the other, an Ottawa Senators prospect with great promise who'd merely like to aid the cause of a team sorely in need of a solitary victory.

The study in contrasts will indeed be great this evening at the Prudential Center (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200), when the Senators hand Robin Lehner his second career NHL start between the pipes. Meanwhile, the Devils will turn to that old reliable, Martin Brodeur, who will make his 1,112th goaltending appearance in the league.

Intimidated? Lehner did his best this morning to sound like anything but that as he met with the media earlier this afternoon following the Senators' pre-game skate.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," the 19-year-old Lehner said when asked about facing one of his goaltending idols. "But I need to ignore (Brodeur) now. It's not him I'm playing. I'm playing (against) their players and he's not going to score on me, I hope. I just want to go out and (face) all the pucks and see what happens.

"(Brodeur) is probably one of the best goalies of all time. Everyone has seen him and now I'm going to be able to play against him. It would be even better to get a win against him. That would be fun. So I'm going to go out there and do my best."

The Senators are turning to Lehner in the wake of Saturday's performance for the Binghamton Senators, when he stopped 43-of-44 shots he faced in a 2-1 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the American Hockey League's top team. Ottawa also is facing back-to-back games in its return from the all-star break — the Detroit Red Wings visit Scotiabank Place on Wednesday night (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) — so the timing is also right for Lehner.

"We're just looking right now at trying to get a win tonight and we feel (Lehner) is going to give us an opportunity to do that," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of his team, which is winless (0-4-2) in its last six games. "We also have to play well in front of him ... We need him to just be be solid, be big, be square to the puck and play with some confidence. He was the first star in Binghamton (on Saturday) and he was a big reason why they got the win."

It is also worth noting that the last time the Senators brought home a victory — a 6-4 road triumph over the New York Islanders on Jan. 13 — it was with Lehner between the pipes in his NHL debut. It's a game the native of Goteborg, Sweden, believes he can draw on tonight.

"You've got to win," said Lehner. "You get confidence from that. You get some sort of comfortable (feeling) that you can play at this level. Even though it was four goals (against), you can still get a win here. It helped me a lot. But I'm just coming up here to try to help the team if they need me."

The Devils have been red hot of late, posting a 6-1-1 record in their last eight starts. But New Jersey's start to the season was so atrocious that Ottawa (17-25-8) stands 13th in the Eastern Conference, seven points in front of the cellar-dwelling Devils (16-30-3).

Around the boards

When Colin Greening makes his NHL debut tonight, he'll join an exclusive club of Newfoundlanders currently toiling in the league. That group includes Dan Cleary (Detroit), Michael Ryder (Boston), Ryane Clowe (San Jose) and Teddy Purcell (Tampa Bay). "I feel great to be able to say that I've played an NHL game and be among those guys," said Greening, whose parents, Fred and Joanne, and girlfriend Tissy will all be in attendance tonight ... Forward Jesse Winchester won't dress tonight for personal reasons, so the Senators will go with 11 forwards and seven defencemen against the Devils.

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