Monday, August 3, 2015

Lehner, Kane questions key to Sabres success

The Buffalo Sabres are expecting a lot from their prospects, including No. 2 picks Jack Eicheland Sam Reinhart, heading into this season.
But contributions from young veterans Robin Lehner and Evander Kane will have as much impact on their possible success.
Here are the three biggest questions facing the Sabres heading into the season:
Can Robin Lehner be a No. 1 goalie? Lehner spent his first five full seasons as a professional either in the American Hockey League, injured or backing up Craig Anderson with the Ottawa Senators. Now he's expected to take the Sabres' starting job.
"I think he's a No. 1 goalie," Murray said after trading for Lehner at the 2015 NHL Draft. "I think he becomes a starter."Buffalo general manager Tim Murray knows Lehner well from his time in the Senators front office; he scouted the 24-year-old Swede before he was drafted by Ottawa in the second round (No. 46) at the 2009 NHL Draft.
Lehner is 30-36-13 with a 2.88 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 86 NHL games (76 starts); a concussion limited him to 25 games last season.
"He's got a couple months now to get in tip-top shape, hopefully," Murray said. "I believe he will."
Lehner won't have to compete against a superior veteran for starts (Chad Johnson is expected to be the backup), but he will have to show consistency and stay healthy. If he can do those things, the Sabres may have found their goalie of the future.
How will the defense hold up? If the Sabres have an obvious weakness, it's their defense. Josh GorgesZach Bogosian and Rasmus Ristolainen will return as part of the top four defensemen, but after that, positions are up for grabs.
The Sabres have young options Mark PysykJake McCabe and Chad Ruhwedel to go along with incumbent veteran Mike Weber. Buffalo also signed Carlo ColaiacovoMatt Donovan and Bobby Sanguinetti as free agents in July to help add to the competition in training camp.
Pysyk may be the favorite from that group to make the Sabres, based on his play last season, but they'll need a few players to seize the opportunity to make a difference.
How will Matt Moulson and Evander Kane bounce back? Moulson had the worst season of his NHL career with 13 goals and 41 points in 2014-15. He could be due for a rebound after a career-low shooting percentage (8.3).
Kane played in 37 games for the Winnipeg Jets and had NHL career lows of 10 goals and 22 points before season-ending shoulder surgery. He was traded to Buffalo on Feb. 11 and is looking forward to a fresh start.
"I think they're doing everything they can to turn it around," Kane said Feb. 21. "As players, you're not trying to finish in last place, you're not trying to lose hockey games. I think everybody has that hunger to get better."

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