NEW YORK – After the Sabres and Rangers battled through overtime Jan. 1 in the Winter Classic at Citi Field, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist took to Instagram and paid tribute to Buffalo goalie and fellow Swede Robin Lehner.
Lehner, who has known Lundqvist for roughly 15 years, was touched by the gesture.
"I saw that and it was nice, really nice," Lehner said Thursday in Madison Square Garden. "We've known each other for a long time and obviously I've followed his career. Then I popped up in North America and he saw that I was here. I started to be around him when his career was taking off. From the first year he went over from Frolunda (Lundqvist's Swedish Elite League team), he turned into a big star for Sweden and this team. It's fun how the path of us playing against each other in the game was very cool."
Lehner and Lundqvist will meet again in goal Thursday night in a 7:30 game nationally televised on NBC Sports Network. The Sabres have been off for a week following their bye week. The Rangers snapped a three-game losing streak with Tuesday's 5-1 win over Philadelphia.
Lundqvist used to work with Lehner's father, Michael, a longtime goalie coach in the Swedish League.
"I remember him and my dad working together a little bit and I remember him coming out on the ice with us when I was a little younger and he was in Frolunda," Lehner said. "He helped me out. Since he started here, I would see him in summers, goalie schools. He's always been a really classy guy. I moved over here and you catch up in summers. Sometimes in summers I've been practicing in Sweden and he's been there too.
"It was cool the way he put it on his post because it was true: I was really a young kid who couldn't stand on my skates back then. I started fairly late in hockey, around 11. I couldn't skate real well and I think it was a surprise for people that I made it here. It was really cool for two guys from the region in Sweden to make that game."