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Sabres Notebook: Johnson needs to see change, Josefson denies reports of Sweden return

Buffalo Sabres backup goalie Chad Johnson, an unrestricted free agent, said he's interested in returning to Buffalo but has to be shown the team is willing to make changes.

"I know I can be a good goalie in this league and I showed that when things were the way they should be," Johnson said at locker cleanout day Monday. "I have to see the change, whether it's through players or somehow convince me through contract, through whatever it is, to come back."

Johnson finished with a 10-17-3 record, .891 save percentage and 3.55 goals against average in 36 games and 29 starts. All three statistics regressed from last season, when he played the same amount of games with the Calgary Flames.

"For a lot of games, for like 20 out of 29, it just seemed like a mess," Johnson said. "Things need to obviously change for a goalie to have success. You look at any team, if they play the way that we play ... I think any goalie, whether you're Pekka Rinne or (Andrei) Vasilevskiy, if a team doesn't play a certain basic standard, it's going to be a mess."

As Johnson heads to free agency, he said he hopes teams understand the context of his decreased numbers.

"At the end of the day you have to hope the games were watched, not just on the statistics side of it," Johnson said. "I'm going into free agency not knowing what to expect and that's the bitter part about it. As a guy in my situation or other guys on one-year deals, it's a lot harder. You can't just flip the page."

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Josh Gorges, also an unrestricted free agent, isn't ready to hang up the skates yet.

"I'll take some time, then when it's enough I'll reevaluate things and kind of see what's in store," Gorges said. "Obviously, there's one thing left undone, and that's winning it all. It'd be hard to say that I don't want to go back and have a chance at that. ... That fire to win that is still there, so we'll wait to see what the summer brings."

The 33-year-old defenseman played 34 games this season, recording two assists.

In last game with Sabres, emotional Gorges ponders end of NHL career

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Goaltender Robin Lehner was unavailable to the media Monday, with the Sabres reporting he was out of town getting a second opinion on his lower-body injury, which forced him to miss the last five games of the season.

Coach Phil Housley declined to specify the nature of the injury but it's believed to be hip-related. Housley said he did not know if Lehner was looking at surgery.

Lehner, who signed a one-year, $4-million contract last summer, is a restricted free agent.

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Center Jacob Josefson is not expected to be back with the Sabres next year and reports out of Sweden have him heading home to Djurgardens, his old team in the Swedish Elite League.

Josefson said reports that he's talked to that club are not true and that he's still pondering a return to the NHL. Josefson had just two goals and two assists in 39 games. His best moment was a shootout-winning goal March 8 at Ottawa while his worst may have been the tripping penalty he took in overtime that led to the New York Rangers' winning goal at the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

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Sabres fans will be able to watch a pair of local players in May at the World Championships in Denmark, as Casey Mittelstadt will represent the United States and Ryan O'Reilly will play for Canada.

"It's going to be something that's really good for my development, but at the same time great for USA Hockey," said Mittelstadt, who recorded five points in his six games with the Sabres.

Forwards Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all declined to play in the tournament. Eichel said he wants to get his body healed, while Reinhart was held up due to his status as a restricted free agent.

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