Robin Lehner faces uncertain future with Golden Knights

Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (90) kneels by the net during a break in the second peri ...

Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner already was uniquely intertwined with Andrew Hammond from their brief time together in Ottawa.

Their connection might have added another twist this week.

In 2015, Hammond was the backup for the Senators when Lehner sustained a concussion and went on injured reserve. Hammond took over as the starter and went on a 20-1-2 run to get Ottawa into the postseason.

The “Hamburglar,” as Hammond is known, was rewarded with a three-year contract by the Senators. With Craig Anderson already in the fold in Ottawa, that made Lehner the odd-man out, and he was traded to Buffalo with forward David Legwand for the No. 21 pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

Fast forward to Monday, and Hammond made 42 saves for New Jersey in a 3-2 victory over the Knights that might cost Lehner his job again after he allowed two bad goals in the third period.

Coach Pete DeBoer hinted after the loss he will turn to rookie Logan Thompson when the Knights host Washington on Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena.

“It’s been an interesting year between (Laurent) Broissoit has been hurt, (Lehner) has been hurt at different points and then obviously a family issue last week that took him out,” DeBoer said. “So, (Thompson) has been consistent in what he’s brought for me in a really tough spot. I think he’s the one guy that has been there and given us what he could.

“The other guys, some through circumstances beyond their control — and I get that — but it’s been tough getting some consistency there.”

Lehner was handed the opportunity to guide the Knights to the postseason in the final weeks but hasn’t gotten the job done. He has posted a 2-2-1 record with a 3.21 goals-against average and .889 save percentage since returning from a lower-body injury April 3.

Against the Devils in the third period, he bobbled a long shot and left a rebound that led to the go-ahead goal, then was frozen on Jesper Boqvist’s shot that was the eventual game-winning goal. That collapse may have sealed Lehner fate with the Knights.

Goodness gracious. 😱 pic.twitter.com/FPSYZMptMY

— NHL (@NHL) April 19, 2022

After being made the starter in the offseason when Marc-Andre Fleury was traded to Chicago, Lehner hasn’t played up to his previous standards. He is near replacement-level with a 2.83 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

Thompson has won seven of his past 10 decisions and owns a 2.55 GAA and .922 save percentage in 14 appearances.

“The teams that are winning right now and win at the end of the day get timely goals and get really good goaltending,” DeBoer said. “We need both those.”

Coach steps away

Silver Knights coach Manny Viveiros will take a medical leave of absence beginning this week and will miss the final four games of the regular season.

Viveiros was diagnosed with prostate cancer before the start of the season and took a leave of absence in December to undergo treatment. He returned to the bench at the end of January.

The Silver Knights clinched a spot in the American Hockey League playoffs. Jamie Heward will serve as the interim coach alongside assistant Joel Ward, goaltending coach Fred Brathwaite and video coach Andrew Doty.

The team did not announce whether Viveiros is expected to return for the postseason.

“The organization wishes to ensure Manny gets the rest he needs during this period and therefore expects him to be away for the final four games of the regular season,” the organization said in a statement. “We will provide additional updates regarding his status when appropriate.”

Developing chemistry

The Knights’ offense has come and gone since the All-Star break and has been especially inconsistent lately. Finding a solution has been made more difficult by unfamiliarity as DeBoer searches for the right forward line combinations.

Jack Eichel and Mark Stone have been in the lineup together for four games and are still getting to know each other on the ice. Max Pacioretty was bumped down to the second line in an effort to spread out some of the offense.

Stone doesn’t have a point since returning from a back injury that kept him out for more than two months.

“We have to find our on-ice chemistry as a unit of five because that seems to be, in my opinion, the difference between scoring goals or not,” Pacioretty said. “I keep mentioning maybe that extra play. Well, it’s also knowing where the guys on the ice are going to be. Making sure we bail each other out when we put each other in tough positions.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.