Robin Lehner is still fighting. His latest opponent is a well-known foe and more formidable than a fellow goaltender.
Lehner, who missed three months with a high-ankle sprain, has felt pain in the ankle again.
The Sabres goaltender skipped practice Thursday and visited with doctors to have the injury evaluated. He suffered his original sprain on opening night and didn’t return until mid-January.
“Having the high-ankle sprain, it’s an injury that probably doesn’t leave you for a good two and a half months,” coach Dan Bylsma said in HarborCenter. “Has he felt it ever since he’s come back and to this point? He has. It’s just the nature of the injury and dealing with it.
“A couple times he’s jammed it into the post and felt it a little more. It kind of happened a week ago and a little bit Wednesday night in the game.”
Buffalo wanted to wait for Lehner’s diagnosis before deciding whether to recall a goalie from Rochester. The Sabres host Ottawa on Friday in First Niagara Center and visit Toronto on Saturday.
Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo also missed practice with a lower-body injury.
“Both guys had maybe slightly more than a maintenance day,” Bylsma said. “Both guys are getting evaluated, and we’ll see what it means for Friday and going forward.”
Lehner has been the Sabres’ workhorse since returning Jan. 15. He has appeared in 20 of 28 games while going 5-9-5 with a .924 save percentage.
He was a focal point during Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Montreal after getting involved in a scrum and challenging Canadiens goalie Ben Scrivens to a fight.
Not having Lehner on Thursday didn’t change the Sabres’ practice. They still worked with two netminders as goalie coach Andrew Allen put on equipment and skated to the net opposite Chad Johnson. The 39-year-old Allen played for the University of Vermont and for several minor-league teams.
“If he hadn’t taken his helmet off, he might’ve passed for Robin,” Bylsma said. “We’re fortunate that we have a guy that can go in there and has got some experience.”
If Lehner was angry with Scrivens, imagine how furious he would have been with someone he didn’t like.
“He’s a good guy off the ice,” said Lehner, who chatted with Scrivens during the pregame warm-up before challenging him to drop the gloves during the second period.
Lehner and Scrivens started in the minor leagues in 2010-11 and played in the American Hockey League for three seasons.
“We know each other going back,” Scrivens said. “We were rookies in the AHL together and made our way up, so we’ve got some history. I would consider us friends, but friends off the ice is not the same as teammates on the ice.”
Ryan O’Reilly practiced normally after getting a heavy workload in his first game back from a broken foot.
Bylsma said before Wednesday’s game he would be surprised to see O’Reilly skate 22 minutes, but the center was on the ice for 22:02, just above his average of 21:51.
O’Reilly skated 14:46 at even strength, 5:26 on the power play and 1:50 short-handed. He won 14 of 26 faceoffs (54 percent).
The Sabres tied Montreal, 34-34, in faceoffs. It was the fourth time in six games Buffalo and its opponents finished at 50 percent in draws. The Sabres won only one faceoff battle (30-29 against Toronto on March 7) in the 11 games that O’Reilly missed.
Evander Kane resumed his connection with local children following practice, visiting Buffalo Public School No. 6 on Division Street.
The winger played basketball, football and hockey with the students. Kane worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo in October and November.