Ottawa Senators goaltender Robin Lehner is seething about a last-minute stick change forced upon him by the NHL.
He has accepted a two-inch reduction in the length of his pads, but he's irate about the league's decision to reduce his stick length to 26 inches from a 28-inch version he has used for the past five seasons. Lehner didn't learn about the need to switch until midway through training camp, when told by an equipment representative.
"I've got to bend my back now, I've got to bend my legs more, I've got to change my posture and all that kind of stuff," Lehner said following Senators practice Wednesday. "I can understand (reducing the size of ) equipment, but to touch the stick ... it's like telling a player that has been shooting with their stick for their whole life ... go to (Jason Spezza), take his stick and cut if off three or four inches and expect him to get his shot every time. It's the same for us, except we're not shooting. We just have to get comfortable in our stance. It's tough. This is the toughest (change) for me."
Any goaltender who is 6-foot-6 or taller is allowed to use a 28-inch stick. Lehner, however, is 6-foot-5, meaning he is required to use the same length of stick as a 5-foot-11 goaltender.
"They took two inches away from me and it's the same as what a guy who is 5-foot-11 can have ... it's just a guessing game, it feels like. It's a little weird."
Lehner ordered a new batch of sticks and has yet to use them. Late in training camp, he experimented with a 26-inch stick used by Nathan Lawson, who has since been assigned to Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
Lehner is comfortable with his new pads, which were designed to give a little more space between the legs when a goaltender goes into his butterfly position. The NHL's thinking was that it could lead to more scoring, but Lehner says netminders have adjusted.
"All the goalies recognized that the whole league would be thinking about going five hole, and goalies worked on the five hole and it made goalies aware. I don't know, there might even be less now. Looking at the games (Tuesday), people thought maybe guys like (Chicago's Corey) Crawford or (Toronto's James) Reimer would have a tough time. But you know what? They looked pretty sick." (Sick meaning good, of course.)
PARROS FALL HITS HOME
When George Parros hit the ice in Montreal Tuesday, Bobby Ryan hit the off button on his TV. "I watched most of (the game), but I turned it right off after Georgie went down," said Ryan, who was close with Parros during their days together with the Anaheim Ducks. "I didn't reach out. I figured I would let some time pass. I will probably shoot him a text today or tomorrow. We got an update and his wife sent us a text. We were pretty close with them in Anaheim in our years there. We know he's doing a lot better, so we're happy to hear that."
STATUS QUO FOR COMBOS
If you accept the line combinations of the past two days as gospel, Matt Kassian and Eric Gryba will be the healthy scratches for the Senators when they face the Buffalo Sabres in the season-opener Friday. The forward lines include Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur-Kyle Turris-Cory Conacher, Zack Smith-Stephane Da Costa-Chris Neil and Colin Greening-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Erik Condra. The Michalek-Spezza-Ryan unit is also the first powerplay forward unit, with Mac-Arthur, Turris and Conacher making up the second.
Senators coach Paul Mac-Lean suggested Wednesday that Da Costa could also see some power-play time. The first pair of penalty killers appear to be Pageau and Condra. The defence pairs are Marc Methot-Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen-Patrick Wiercioch and Chris Phillips-Joe Corvo. Karlsson and Wiercioch are on the first power play unit.
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