After spending three seasons with the Sabres, Robin Lehner made his return to Buffalo as the goalie in net for the Islanders on Sunday. It was his first game played in Buffalo since exiting midway through a March 29 game from when he was with the Sabres last season, which he later revealed was due to hitting a low point in his battle with bipolar disorder, depression and an alcohol dependency.
Lehner revealed that he had entered into rehab, and he made enough progress to return to the ice on a contract with the Islanders. In his first game back in front of the crowd at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center, he described experiencing some awkwardness.
It’s understandable that Lehner felt some reticence, but he still turned in a superb 39-save performance on 40 shots in the 3-1 victory. In the grand scheme of things, a game is only a game, but this one must’ve been a personal win for Lehner.
He’s playing this season in a custom mask designed by Dave Art that nods to his battle with mental illness, with details that illustrate his demons as well as the fresh start that he was able to find for himself.