Robin Lehner continues to earn high praise as he returns to Blackhawks’ practice

Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner takes part in Blackhawks' morning skate at the United Center on January 7th.

CHICAGO – Knowing what he’s meant to this team during the first half of the year, seeing No. 40 back on the ice and skating around Tuesday morning at the United Center was quite a relief.

Dealing with a right knee issue since the Vancouver game on January 2nd, Robin Lehner took the ice for part of morning skate, his first appearance since his injury  was announced. He worked out for a bit, taking a few shots on goal before heading back to the locker room before the end of the session.

“Positive,” said head coach Jeremy Colliton of Lehner being back on the ice, but offered no health update or timetable on a possible return.

That leaves Corey Crawford in net to start on Tuesday night against the Flames at the United Center with Kevin Lankinen serving as the backup, still remaining with the team on an “emergency” basis since Lehner hasn’t been placed on injured reserve.

But considering what he’s has meant to the team, and how much his play in net has kept any playoff aspirations alive for the team, seeing Lehner on the ice was a welcome sight for teammates.

“He’s obviously been great for us all year,” said forward Patrick Kane of Lehner. “It was a little scary after the game. But, you know, hopefully, he can get back soon and help us out. He’s had a great season for himself and for the team. We can’t wait to have him back.”

Neither can general manager Stan Bowman, who did his mid-season news conference at the United Center on Tuesday. He talked highly of Lehner’s contributions to the team in the first half of the year, one in which he sported a 12-7-4 record with a 2.92 goals-against average and a 92.2% save percentage. In December, he won seven of his nine starts, with one of the losses coming in a shootout with a 92.3 save percentage.

Right now, Lehner’s signing is arguably the best move that the general manager made last offseason and one that could help end a playoff drought that extends back to 2017.

“Robin’s been tremendous,” said Bowman. “It’s been a consistent refrain from everyone with how great our goaltending has been. For the longest time there, it was pretty much just going back-and-forth, and then Robin really got going, he got injured, but it’s not really a long-term injury, so it was good to see him back on the ice today.

“He makes it look pretty easy. He’s got the ability, he’s such a big guy, but he moves really well for a guy that size, and his reading of the game is second-to-none. I think that’s what put that together with the amount of net he covers on his own and then his reaction time and his anticipation. He makes some great saves, and even when we’re not on top of our game, he keeps us in the games long enough to get going. That’s what your hoping your goalie’s going to do, and he’s been excellent.”

 

 

 

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