When the Buffalo Sabres took the ice Tuesday morning, it looked as if Robin Lehner would miss another game after taking several hits to the head in the team’s loss in Colorado on Saturday.
But Lehner showed up on the ice midway through the pre-game skate then led his team on to the ice Tuesday night, reclaiming the starter’s net for the Sabres, who hosted the Nashville Predators in KeyBank Center.
“I got cleared late this morning, so I was a little late on practice, but I feel good,” Lehner said after the pre-game skate. “No symptoms in my head anymore, and I felt good.”
Lehner got hit in the head several times during Saturday’s start in Colorado, including a big blow by the Avalanche’s Tyson Barrie.
“In the second period, Barrie hits me with a pretty big hit right in the head, blindsided me pretty much,” Lehner said. “I got some small symptoms, but it was all neck related and I passed all my concussion testing. So I’m happy there’s nothing bad.”
Lehner has a history with concussions, suffering one in February 2015 while playing for the Ottawa Senators that sidelined him for months. While Lehner said the hits in Colorado didn’t worry him, it was a relief to hear his headache was neck related and not concussion related.
“I wasn’t worried that much,” Lehner said. “It was a minor, minor, minor, minor headache. We just were precautionary and went through testing and wanted to do everything right. It was a pretty big hit, too, so to be on the safe side of things. I wasn’t very worried.”
That put Anders Nilsson as the backup and left Linus Ullmark hanging around, waiting to be reassigned to Rochester. Ullmark was on his fifth recall this season but has yet to play in a game after making his NHL debut last season.
In 42 games with the Rochester Americans he has a 20-20-2 record and a .910 save percentage.
"It’s still a good experience, good practices," Ullmark said of his recalls without game action. "It’s always fun to get up here and practice with them. Of course you want to get in there and play but if you don’t you have to have the same mindset. You never know what’s going to happen. You might get a shot next game, whatever. You never know how long the goalie that’s out is going to be. It’s just great fun to always have the opportunity to come up here."
Nilsson, meanwhile, was fending off trade rumor talk as the goaltender is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Last year Nilsson was dealt at the trade deadline, going from Edmonton to St. Louis.
"You try not to think about it too much because it’s out of your control," Nilsson said. "Obviously you can’t control if you’re traded or not traded or whatever. You try not to think about it too much but obviously it’s in the back of your head. Last year I got traded at the trade deadline. I’m familiar with the process.
"I think you kind of have to be good at blocking it out. I mean it’s nothing you can control. There’s no point in wasting energy on that."
The Sabres made their first trade of deadline season Tuesday and it involved minor league players. Buffalo acquired defenseman Mat Bodie from the New York Rangers in exchange for Dan Catenacci.
Bodie ranks 12th among all AHL defensemen with 30 points (eight goals, 22 assists) in 45 games for the Hartford Wolf Pack. In 196 career AHL games, Bodie has 98 points. He signed as an undrafted free agent after winning the NCAA championship in 2014 with Union.
Catenacci, 23, had five goals and eight assists in 50 games this season for Rochester. He has played most of the last five seasons for the Amerks after being taken in the third round by the Sabres in 2011. He played 11 games for Buffalo last season without recording a point.
The Buffalo Sabres closed out the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” month by celebrating women’s hockey at Tuesday’s game.
While the women’s game has grown at all levels, it’s something that was just part of growing up for Matt Moulson.
The Sabres forward is the older brother of Shannon Moulson, who played her collegiate hockey for the now-defunct program at Niagara University. She is in her fifth season playing defense for the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League – a professional women’s league that predates the National Women’s Hockey League, home of the Buffalo Beauts.
Matt, 33, remembers skating with his two younger siblings, Shannon (30) and Chris (28) when they grew up in Mississauga, Ontario.
“I don’t know if we talk too much hockey as brother and sister but we’ve always skated, the three of us – my brother, my sister and I,” Matt said in KeyBank Center Tuesday morning. “My dad would have us out there in the morning skating together. Played pond hockey together. I don’t know if she played as much pond hockey as my brother and I but we were always involved hockey.”
And the fact that his sister was playing, and excelling, well, her gender never really crossed his mind.
“As kids we didn’t know any different,” Moulson said. “She was always very athletic. She even played lacrosse with the boys. She actually played boys’ hockey up until maybe even a year of body-checking. She was probably one of the biggest on her team. I don’t think we thought any differently. She was very athletic and loved sports.”
The Sabres honored women in the game Tuesday including the Buffalo Beauts, Nichols hockey coach and U.S. gold medalist Shelley Looney and Buffalo native Maureen Murphy, who won gold with Team USA in January at the IIHF Women’s Under-18 World Championship.
The Buffalo Sabres Foundation made a $500,000 commitment to five local hockey organizations.
The team will make $100,000 donations to SABAH, Hasek’s Heroes, Buffalo Sabres Warriors, Buffalo Sabres Thunder Special Hockey Team and Buffalo Sabres Sled Hockey Team. The donation will be spread out over a five-year period with each organization receiving $20,000 per year. The organizations were chosen for their continued efforts to bring hockey to disabled individuals, disadvantaged youth, and veterans.