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Lehner ready to return to Sabres' crease this weekend

Robin Lehner will play for the Sabres this weekend. Before that, he’s going to sleep.

The goaltender arrived at his Buffalo-area home at 3:45 a.m. Thursday following a 35-save performance Wednesday night in Albany, then joined his Sabres teammates for a morning practice in First Niagara Center.

“I’m a little tired,” Lehner said. “It was a long drive yesterday, but I feel good. It’s exciting. Some nerves. Excitement is the best word right now.”

The reason for the excitement is obvious. Lehner, who suffered a high-ankle sprain during the Sabres’ season opener Oct. 8, is scheduled to make his second start of the season either Friday against Boston or Saturday against Washington.

“I’m ready,” Lehner said. “Is it going to be perfect? I don’t know, but I’m going to do my best. I’m going to compete, and I feel like I’m getting better every day right now. I’m excited.”

Lehner went 1-2 with a .888 save percentage during three games with Rochester. The results were disappointing, but he liked his progression throughout the conditioning stint.

“I’m a competitive guy,” he said. “I want to win, but obviously I also went down with the mindset I wanted to get back, you know? I just wanted to get back to being a goalie, see the pucks, work on some details, make some mistakes so I can correct the mistakes.

“I feel like I made strides in a very short period of time.”

Lehner will share the Sabres’ crease with Chad Johnson. The goaltenders’ workload will depend on Lehner’s progress.

“We have a plan right now in place for the next five days, and then we’ll see how we go from there,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “He spent a lot of time off his feet for the past 10 weeks. Yes, he’s had practice time. Yes, he’s had seven good practices with the team and in Rochester and the game time, but he essentially hasn’t played a game in almost year’s time if you go back to his injury last year.

“It’s been an awful long time, and yeah, he’s still in the sense of training-camp type mode.”

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