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Lehner, Locke eager to answer Senators' call

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Corey Locke, the American Hockey League's top scorer, has been summoned from the Binghamton Senators to help inject some juice into the Ottawa attack (Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).

The future is apparently now for the Ottawa Senators. At least between the pipes, that is.

Robin Lehner, the organization's top goaltending prospect, has been tabbed to make his first National Hockey League start on Thursday night, when the Senators face off against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200). He was recalled this morning on an emergency basis from the Binghamton Senators along with forward Corey Locke, the American Hockey League's leading scorer.

While Lehner — a second-round pick by the Senators (46th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft — saw a bit of action with the Senators earlier this season when called into a pair of games in relief of starter Brian Elliott, this will be something completely new. The 19-year-old native of Goteborg, Sweden, is also set to become the youngest stopper to start a game in a Senators uniform.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Lehner said earlier today after the Senators held a practice session on the campus of Boston University. "When they told me (I was starting), I was just really happy. I'm looking forward to it. I'll try to go in there and do as well as I can.

"I did have some small experiences with it so far (this season) and in a couple of exhibition games. I want to just go in and don’t think too much. Just go in and try to help them as much as I can and try to help them turn it around."

Head coach Cory Clouston also sees it as an opportunity to give a break to Elliott, who's made 10 straigtht starts in the wake of a lower-body injury that continues to sideline Pascal Leclaire. Elliott was pulled after two periods Tuesday night in Boston, with Mike Brodeur tending goal for the final period of a 6-0 loss to the Bruins. Brodeur was returned to Binghamton today along with forward Jim O'Brien, who saw his third game of NHL duty last night.

"We just need (Lehner) to go out there and play solid," said Clouston. "We also have to play well in front of him and be responsible defensively ... It's been a tough situation for (Elliott). We haven't had a lot of support for him.

"It's a good opportunity for Brian to sit back for a game and allow Robin to go in there to be good for us."

"It's amazing. I'm happy to be here, I'm lucky I got the call and I just want to try to get some wins here. They just told me to keep being patient and that's what I was trying to do (in Binghamton). I had a good feeling (the call) was going to come. You hope, as a player down there, that you're going to get an opportunity and you've just got to stay positive. I just want to come in and do my part. I don't want to overplay it. I just want to play my game and try to help out and contribute as much as possible." - Corey Locke
Lehner turned in an impressive performance for Sweden at the just-completed 2011 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo, recording a 2-0 shutout win over eventual gold medallist Russia and a 6-5 shootout victory over Canada. He backstopped the B-Sens to a 5-2 victory over the Portland Pirates on Tuesday night before his recall to Ottawa.

In that same game in Maine, Locke racked up two goals and two assists to further pad his AHL-leading scoring total. That number now stands at 55 points in 38 games, including 40 assists. Now the Senators hope the former Ottawa 67's star can inject some juice into their struggling attack, which ranks 28th in the NHL.

"We just need him to play hard, play smart and be creative," said Clouston, who had Locke skating on a line with Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon in practice today. "I liked what I saw. They looked like they had some chemistry right off the bat. There's some speed there and an element of skill, as well."

Added captain Daniel Alfredsson: "He's a guy who's really skilled. He'll probably get some time on the power play. Hopefully, he can help us create something and come in with energy and make some plays for us."

Locke, who's watched teammates such as O'Brien and Bobby Butler get their chance with the big club this season, has quietly bided his time waiting for his turn. Needless to say, he couldn't be more enthused now that it's arrived. It will be only his fifth NHL game, with three of them coming last season with the New York Rangers.

"It's amazing," said Locke, 26, a veteran of 502 AHL games. "I'm happy to be here, I'm lucky I got the call and I just want to try to get some wins here. They just told me to keep being patient and that's what I was trying to do (in Binghamton).

"I had a good feeling (the call) was going to come. You hope, as a player down there, that you're going to get an opportunity and you've just got to stay positive. I just want to come in and do my part. I don't want to overplay it. I just want to play my game and try to help out and contribute as much as possible."

Around the boards

Clouston hinted there might be one more lineup change against the Isles, though he didn't get into specifics today. "We just want to make sure we get a handle on who's 100 per cent and who's not," he said. "There's a couple of guys (we're monitoring)." ... The Senators return home to face the Calgary Flames on Friday night at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200). Fewer than 600 tickets remain for the game.


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