After years of fighting for this moment, of delivering extended periods of goaltending brilliance along with occasional signs of immaturity, he has now arrived on the big stage for good. While Lehner has played in 22 NHL games during the past three seasons, every one of those has been because of an injury to one of the two goaltenders ahead of him on the depth chart.
“Now, it’s because of something I’ve worked on and the organization felt that I deserved. I really appreciate that. This organization took me in a few years ago when no one really knew about me. I’ve had some ups and downs and they really moulded me into a good prospect. Then they kept going and turned me into a professional. A lot of credit goes to them.”
Over time, Lehner has learned the value of patience.
“I’m young, I’m 21 years old and it has always been my age against me. I really pushed the envelope and probably haven’t made it easy for the management up here. That’s fine, that’s who I am. They’ve taught me how to step back and relax a little bit.”
ISLES STILL STREIT’S PREFERENCE
Newsday remarks Mark Streit is not one to keep his true thoughts hidden, so he readily admitted to thinking about what might happen in the days leading up to Wednesday’s trade deadline. Especially after Pat Brisson, Streit’s agent, and Islanders general manager Garth Snow could not come to terms on a contract extension before Wednesday.
Snow had told his captain he would not trade him, but “if you’re in a situation like that, I don’t think it’s possible not to think about it,” Streit said Thursday afternoon after the team’s skate at the Verizon Center. “I think that’s normal for anyone. We’re not machines. But you try to get used to it and just make sure you do what you need to do as a player.”
Streit still very much wants to remain an Islander beyond this season, even though the stalemate between his agent and Snow wouldn’t seem to be closing anytime soon.
“You just regroup and figure out what the plan is moving forward, if you’re part of it or not,” Miller said after practice Thursday in First Niagara Center. “That’s something you guys have to talk to Darcy about. It’s something I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about and certainly something I can’t speculate on because I’ve never known what Darcy’s going to do.
“I have to talk to Darcy about it. This is obviously something that hasn’t been planned out.
“We’ll just see where everything falls, talk to Darcy about what his plan is and how I’m going to fit into it or what’s going on because these aren’t conversations we’ve had time to have. Probably given that the trade deadline has come and gone now, I don’t know if we’ll have a chance to talk about it till after the season.”
Vanek said earlier this week he wouldn’t want to be part of a long-term rebuilding process. He reiterated that’s probably the case.
SHARKS WELCOME TORRES INTO THE FOLD
The San Jose Mercury News relays that Raffi Torres made his first appearance inside the Sharks’ locker room Thursday. The Sharks are Torres’ seventh NHL team and the 31-year-old left wing knows the drill well. He may be reviled when he’s the opposition, but everything changes when players wear the same jersey.
“What happens on the ice, stays on the ice — and it’s a different model when you’re in the room and now you’re part of the team,” Torres said. “Hopefully we can put that stuff behind us and look to the future.”
Coach Todd McLellan said Torres would need time to learn the Sharks’ “systematic play, and if we can get that done and we can feel comfortable, then we’ll make a change.”
Earlier — maybe jokingly, maybe not — Torres indicated that learning a team’s system is not one of his strong suits.
“I think if you could ask all my coaches, when you talk systems, I kind of do my own thing out there,” Torres said. “Probably why it cost me a lot of minutes.”
“Yeah, it’s cool,” Gaudreau, taking a break from classes at Boston College, said Thursday afternoon. “It’s really exciting to see some of those really talented big-name guys leave (because) for the young guys, it’s a chance to play there. To see how they’re going young, it’s pretty cool.”
All of which begs the question: When exactly will Gaudreau join the Flames organization’s professional stream?
“I know I really enjoy it here at BC,” said Gaudreau, a fourth-round pick, 104th overall, from the 2011 NHL draft. “I know Calgary is a really awesome place to be, a really fun hockey city. So both of my options are win-win. But I really want to get education, so that’s something I’m really taking into consideration. But I’d really like to get a chance to play for the Flames.
“So I’m not really sure right now. I’m just kind of playing it by ear.”
Another factor is Gaudreau’s little brother. Matthew Gaudreau, currently skating for the USHL’s Omaha Lancers, is committed to BC next season.
“I’d really like a chance to play with him,” said Gaudreau, listed at five foot eight and 153 pounds, “so I’m not really sure what to do.”
PANTHERS BRING BJUSTAD ONBOARD
The Miami Herald notes Nick Bjugstad, the 19th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, signed a three-year deal with the Florida Panthers on Wednesday and will make his NHL debut Saturday against the Capitals. He has spent the past three seasons at the University of Minnesota.
“Nick is going to be here,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. “We have 11 games left. This will be a good learning experience for him. If he does well, it will make it that much easier for him at training camp next year. It’s a good chance to evaluate him.”
Although they privately wished he would have started his professional career in the minor leagues this season, the Panthers didn’t want to risk Bjugstad returning to Minnesota for his senior season and becoming a free agent in 2014 without signing with Florida. The Panthers will burn a year of his entry-level contract by bringing him up to the NHL level. It’s a tradeoff they were willing to make.
“We understand what the consequences are,” Tallon said. “He is an asset we wanted to get signed. We wanted to get him in the fold, get him some games. We want him indoctrinated with our team now.”
“I got along playing with Marty. I liked him a lot as a teammate and what he brings,” Ward said. “I know he’s a hardworking guy, which is great, and he’s consistent, too. He’s put up points the last quite a few years in Nashville and you know they say on paper he’s not one of the big names or that talented, but he’s still found a way to make plays.”
The former Predators in the Washington locker room didn’t want to speak for Erat, but as veteran players it’s easy to understand the frustration.
“When you lose guys like Ryan Suter, it’s very tough,” Ward said. “They still got [goaltender Pekka Rinne] on the back end and [Shea Weber] there. I think they had some injuries where they had a few call-ups, too, which has been unfortunate for him too. It’s all part of the game. It’s unfortunate. It can be frustrating at times.”
The Caps are hoping to benefit from his presence.
“I know by Marty’s character and by his work ethic, he wants to win every night,” Ward said. “The circumstances there, I guess things weren’t developing as what he thought it would be in the future, per se. I think this gives him a good shot of coming here and helping out and knowing that we have a good opportunity of winning games.”