Robin Lehner said he has a concussion and the Vegas Golden Knights goalie doesn’t know when he will be able to return.
“I’ve been on the ice for a little bit now,” Lehner said Wednesday. “I feel pretty good on the ice, but we’ll see what the best time is and when they decide.
“I feel ready, but whenever the team needs me to play, I’ll do my best and get back to where I need to be to help the team win. I couldn’t follow the team much in the beginning, but the last couple of weeks, we’ve played great. [Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury] has been amazing and it’s good to see our team having success.”
Fleury will start his 17th game for the Golden Knights when they host the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; ATTSN-RM, NBCSCA, NHL.TV) since Lehner was injured Feb. 7. The 36-year-old is 11-5-0 with a 1.90 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and three shutouts in that stretch.
Lehner was on a conditioning loan with Henderson of the American Hockey League since March 10 and rejoined the Golden Knights for practice Monday. He said he wanted to share details of the injury, which had been termed an upper-body injury by Vegas, because of his advocacy around mental health issues and rumors that his absence was related to those issues.
“That’s why, and the only reason why I’m telling you guys I had a concussion right now, is the nature of society,” he said. “I said this many times before, without going on a rant, the stigma around mental health is insane. Everyone deals with it; I don’t care what anyone says. Everyone deals with it at some form or another during their life. Right now, during [COVID-19], a lot of people do.
“That’s also why the stigma is hard for the progress of people getting better because people have to hide it before people talk and say these things. I think I should get the benefit of the doubt because I’ve been honest with it. If I had those issues again, which are not happening, I would be honest about it.”
Lehner stressed that mental health issues, when they happen, should be treated like physical injuries in the eyes of the public. A player, he said, is eagerly welcomed back after surgery for an injury and it should be the same for a player that needs counseling to deal with mental health.
“That’s why I’m honest by saying I had a concussion,” Lehner said. “Teams don’t usually say those things, but I thought it was important to say that because I’ve heard those rumors where, ‘Oh, maybe he’s back in rehab.'”
During training camp with the New York Islanders in 2018, Lehner wrote an article for The Athletic where he revealed an addiction and his mental health issues. He then had his best season in the NHL, going 25-13-5 with a 2.13 GAA, .930 save percentage and six shutouts. Lehner was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL and won the Masterton Trophy as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Lehner signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks as a free agent July 1, 2019 and started 31 games before he was traded to the Golden Knights on Feb. 24, 2020. He signed a five-year, $25 million contract with Vegas on Oct. 3 and was expected to be its No. 1 goalie this season. He was 3-1-1 with a 2.96 GAA and .890 save percentage before the injury.
Though Lehner said he is champing at the bit to get back, he has not felt a sense to rush it, in part because of the success the Golden Knights are experiencing and that being with the team has further helped his recovery. Vegas (19-6-1) is first in the eight-team Honda West Division, two points ahead of the Minnesota Wild.
“I’ve got a great team on my side, with this team and my psychiatrist,” he said. “We’ve done all the right things. The hardest part to me, like everyone’s experienced with the COVID isolation and all that stuff, it’s been frustrating and it’s mentally taxing for a lot of people.
“You add on a concussion where you can be more isolated than you already are, and it can be difficult. I feel pretty good. I feel ready to play and it’s a mental good boost for me to be around this great group of guys again.”
NHL.com independent correspondent Danny Webster contributed to this report