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Sabres' Lehner is hot, fiery heading into cold Winter Classic

NEW YORK — Robin Lehner put on one layer of clothes. Then another. And another. And another.

"It's definitely cold out there," the Buffalo Sabres goaltender said Sunday after practicing outdoors in Citi Field.

It was 16 degrees and sunny when the Sabres skated in the New York Mets' baseball stadium. The brisk, windy weather was one of the few things that has cooled Lehner. He has been hot heading into Monday's Winter Classic against the New York Rangers.

Lehner has a .935 save percentage in his last nine games, putting up a 4-2-3 record despite spotty goal support. His .928 save percentage in December ranked fifth among NHL goalies heading into New Year's Eve. He's stopped 234 of the last 246 shots at five-on-five, an impressive .951 save percentage. That includes three goals that were technically six-on-five since the opponent had its goalie pulled.

Lehner will look to keep rolling with the hockey world focused on the outdoor game.

"I'm going to try to enjoy this opportunity," he said. "I'm going to enjoy the atmosphere out there and just have fun."

Lehner has been on fire off the ice, too. He's taken shots at the NHL's replay officials. He's engaged in very animated dressing-room conversations.

He knows he'll be even more pumped up once the teams skate out to a packed house of more than 41,000. He'll try to keep the adrenaline down, but …

"It's probably going to be hard," Lehner said. "It's an experience that not many people get to experience. You've just got to enjoy it and have fun with it."

NHL Winter Classic: By the numbers

Lehner will get extra motivation when he looks at the other net. Swedish countryman Henrik Lundqvist will start for the Rangers, and he's 3-0 with a .933 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average in three outdoor games.

The Buffalo Sabres practiced at Citi Field on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, before facing the New York Rangers in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

"He's the best Swedish goaltender that's ever played," Lehner said. "He's a good guy, and it's always fun playing against him."

The word "fun" repeatedly came up during Lehner's chat. He enjoyed the post-practice family skate that included his wife, sister and 3-year-old son. He liked the condition of the ice and rink, though the sun was a little tough. He even had fun putting all those clothes on.

"My skates were a little tight," he said. "I had double socks. That was the only problem I had."

If that's the only thing that goes wrong for Lehner during this event, the Sabres will be in good shape.

"Any team is lucky to be part of something like this," he said. "We've been playing better, but it's a good opportunity for us in front of a big stage. Hopefully, we'll go out and get a win and keep the momentum going."

Sabres intent on enjoying their time on Winter Classic stage

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