Senators notebook: Lehner returns to the net

Robin Lehner has some impressive history against the Minnesota Wild organization, but you won’t find it in any National Hockey League record book.

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Robin Lehner has some impressive history against the Minnesota Wild organization, but you won’t find it in any National Hockey League record book.

Lehner, you’ll recall, was the American Hockey League’s playoff MVP in 2011, backstopping the Binghamton Senators to a Calder Cup triumph in the championship series over the Houston Aeros — the Wild’s AHL affiliate. That Houston team was coached by current Wild coach Mike Yeo and also featured Senators heavyweight Matt Kassian.

“The last game in Bingo, we outshot them 50-something to 20, and they won 2-1,” said Kassian. “Lehner just killed us. I don’t know what (the shots were) exactly, but Lehner killed us. We didn’t give up much and they capitalized on the opportunities they had. That was the difference.”

Lehner will recognize at least a few players from that AHL championship series as he starts Tuesday for the first time since the Senators lost 5-0 to the Boston Bruins on Dec. 28. Since then, Craig Anderson has taken the puck and run with it, in goal for every second of the Senators’ current 5-0-1 run.

“I haven’t played in a while, so I’m anxious to get in there,” said Lehner, who has played better than his record (5-9-3, 2.68, .922) indicates. “We’ve been playing great. It’s great to see the turnaround. We have been playing with confidence and not making as many mistakes, and we’re on a roll right now and I want to try and keep it going.”

Senators coach Paul MacLean said there was a concern that rust could develop unless the team found a way to get Lehner into a game.

“We know that Craig is playing well and can play lots of games and can play them one after the other, but at the same time, Robin gives us a very good chance to win games and has played very well for us as well,” MacLean said. “We just don’t feel we can let him sit there longer and longer and longer and not get to play.

Lehner and the Senators will be playing a Wild team that has managed to keep winning — 5-1-0 in their past six games — despite the potentially devastating loss of goaltender Josh Harding (treatment related to his multiple sclerosis), and injuries to Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jared Spurgeon.

If any teams knows how the Wild are doing it, it’s the Senators, who found a way to make the playoffs last season despite injuries to Anderson, Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek.

NEIL CLOSES IN ON RETURN

Chris Neil is feeling great during workouts and MacLean says Neil’s “practices have been very good,” but a decision on whether or not he plays against the Wild won’t be made until Tuesday. Neil has missed the past four games with a hamstring injury. If Neil returns, either Jean-Gabriel Pageau or Mark Stone will be assigned to Binghamton … Colin Greening is slated to play in his 200th career game Tuesday after surviving plenty of bruises in Nashville Saturday. Greening and Nashville’s Eric Nystrom both landed punches during a spirited fight. Greening also took a Shea Weber shot off the inside of his knee, never a comfortable feeling considering Weber’s shot has been clocked at 104 miles per hour … Kassian isn’t expected to play Tuesday against his former team, but the Senators own a record of 13-3-7 when he’s in the lineup.

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