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Lehner, Sabres tuning up nicely for season

In his initial outings of the preseason, his first back from a February concussion, new Sabres goalie Robin Lehner gave up six goals and posted a sickly .864 save percentage But it’s only preseason, as the old adage goes, and Lehner didn’t even play full games.

Now that the Sabres have entered the final week of exhibition play, everyone is getting into more intense tuneup mode. Lehner was among those who looked strong during Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in First Niagara Center.

Although he wasn’t challenged much, stopping 26 shots, Lehner looked more controlled in his crease than his two previous games. A couple of rebounds were kicked out to the middle of the ice but did not cause any issues. His best saves came in the first half of the third period, when he snared a quick wrister from Toronto winger Shawn Matthias and then stopped William Nylander on a 3-on-1 break.

The win improved the Sabres to 4-1 in preseason with two games left. The Mike Babcock-led Leafs fell to 3-3 and dropped both meetings with Buffalo in exhibition play.

On the scoresheet: The Sabres took the lead on Jack Eichel’s short-handed breakaway goal at 13:48 of the first period, then put the game away in the second as Matt Moulson tipped home a Matt Donovan point shot at 59 seconds and Evan Rodrigues beat Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier to the post and scored on a wraparound at 2:41. Rodrigues jammed home a rebound for his second of the night at 10:15 of the third.

On the blueline: It was the preseason debut for Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen, who played more than 22 minutes. Cody Franson put together a plus-3 rating against his old team.

Double fight card: Sabres defenseman Mike Weber and Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk got into a tussle late in the first period, both earning roughing minors. Less than two minutes after they left the penalty box, Weber went at it for real with Leafs forward Richard Clune, earning fighting majors.

In the house: The announced crowd was 17,357, although it looked more like 12,000 to 13,000 were actually on the premises.

Next up: The Sabres have a rematch Thursday night in Minnesota against the Wild before closing the preseason here Friday night against Columbus. The Minnesota game will be Buffalo’s final test session for 3-on-3 overtime of the preseason, meaning the new format will be played regardless of whether or not the score is actually tied at the end of regulation.

The game against the Blue Jackets will be the only live telecast of the preseason on MSG.


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