Will Sabres rest Miller against Habs?

UPDATE: The Sabres will have rookie callup Jhonas Enroth in goal tonight.

The Canadiens host Buffalo on Tuesday and the Sabres are making their push for a berth in the playoffs. They’ve won 12 of their past 18 and have two more points for losses after regulation for 26 of a possible 36 points. They currently sit in 10th, four points out of eighth where Carolina currently resides. Most impressively, they’ve done it without top centre Derek Roy, out for the season after leg surgery in late December.

Despite that, the Sabres have had trouble holding leads during this streak, having blown two-goal leads three times, most recently against the Islanders, who skated away with a 7-6 OT win on Sunday. It was goalie Ryan Miller’s worst game of the season.

Miller has not been the world-class netminder this season we’ve come to expect. His save percentage of .909 is below last season’s .929. His GAA is 2.78 compared to last year’s 2.22 — a half-goal more per game. “This team isn’t good enough to make a run if Miller isn’t playing at a
high level,” wrote Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan on Monday.

“I’m not playing at the level I guess that was expected after last
season but I feel like I’m contributing  and playing decent,” he said Monday (quoted by The
Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington
). I obviously
want to improve and that’s the name of the game. You try to improve
every day and try to win every day.”

Last year’s Team USA Olympic star even uncharacteristically snapped at a Buffalo News reporter John Vogl (audio) after the Islanders game who merely asked Miller, “Did you feel OK?” Miller replied, “John, I feel fine. I don’t even know why you’re going down that line.
Do I feel fine? What does that mean? What are you implying?…I feel fine. Gimme a break.”

Having started 31 consecutive games, there is speculation that Miller is as exhausted as he is frustrated. In those 31 games, he’s 18-9-3, but with a 2.85 GAA and a sub-par .900 save percentage. This was supposed to be the year he got a bit more rest, with Patrick Lalime as his backup. But that plan didn’t materialize.

“It wasn’t quite what we set out to do,” Miller said Monday of his long active stretch. “But when I started the year with some injuries, it
kind of threw a wrench into that and Lindy wanted to get me rolling.
Then it kind of got a little bit long so we’re going to have to make a
plan to make sure that mentally and physically I’m where I need to be.”

So it’s possible that Lalime might be in goal against the Habs. Coach Lindy Ruff spoke at length during Monday’s practice with Lalime, but neither was disclosing the substance of their chat. Harrington speculates that would save Miller for Wednesday game against the Maple Leafs, a team against which Miller excels. He’s got more wins against the Leafs, 24, than any other team in the NHL.

While Sullivan has put the entire weight of the Sabres success on the goalie, right winger Drew Stafford has certainly done his part. Named the NHL’s second star of the week Monday, Stafford got his fourth hat trick of the season in the Islanders game and also had a hat trick against the Lightning last Tuesday. His six goals have come on his last six shots.

“Some of my shots, if you want to call them that, I was just kind of
parked in front of the net,” Stafford told Harrington. “You just hang around
the net and pucks are hanging around there. They were not exactly shots
per se. It’s a pretty good stat. I guess you guys have your stats.
That’s pretty cool. You don’t see that too often. Not sure I can keep it
going but I’ll do my best.”

Stafford leads the Sabres with 23 goals, 19 in his last 22 games, but has only 10 assists. He doesn’t have a goal against the Canadiens this season but
has played only 26 minutes against Montreal, missing one game entirely and parts of two others with injuries.

Thomas Vanek has also been hot for the Sabres. Their leading scorer with 22 goals and 26 assists, he has nine goals and 14 assists during the Sabres’ last 17 games.

13 Comments

  1. SeriousFan09 says:

    A personality conflict in the NHL is when you have one and others who don’t have one object to it.

     

    - I shall always remember Captain Koivu. Habs and Hockey.

  2. oshawahabsfan says:

    Another feature about P.K on Sportscentre. He speaks to the ridiculousness of all the criticism that’s been coming his way, jokes that if he smiles, someone will find something wrong with how he’s smiling. It was good to see him showing some of his personality. At times it seems like he doesn’t say what he wants to say in media scrums and instead spews the tired old hockey cliches that no one is interested in hearing.

  3. 24 Cups says:

    That’s the way it goes when you’re life and death to make the playoffs every year.  It’s the same reason why we rushed young kids like Price, MaxPac and SK74 before they were ready to hit the big time.

  4. ManApart says:

    Miller has started 31 straight!?! Not exactly the best way to manage your franchise player. What are they thinking? Says a lot about how they feel about Lalime

  5. oshawahabsfan says:

    Sad but true man

  6. Habnofear says:

    The Sabres are a shadow of their former greatness and it should be an easy Win for Les Good Guy’s.Buffalo is as offensively challenged as the Laff’s and all Price has too do is play positionaly”he doesn’t have to even raise his arms ” and he’ll get another shut out.

  7. Former Jets Fan says:

    Your comment is not grounded in reality.  It is the Canadiens that are as offensively challenged as the Laffs.  The Sabres are 8th out of 30 in goals per game. 

  8. christophor says:

    Briere

    Richards

    Carter

    Giroux

    Hartnell

    Zherdev

    Versteeg

    Leino

    van Reimsdyk

     

    !

  9. habs913 says:

    amazing

    best top 9 in the nhl

    GO HABS GO

  10. yukonhab says:

    Big win tomorrow!

     

    Support your local indian – Price 31

  11. Rainrocket16 says:

    Happy Valentines day fellow Habs Fans!!! No love tomorrow for my fellow NY’ers!

    Sabres = Several Attempts But Rarely Ever Succeed !!!!

  12. habs913 says:

    Let’s hope it’s not a repeat of the last time we played them…

     

    GO HABS GO

  13. HABSsince92 says:

    Jonas Enroth has been called up and flew into Montreal last night according to WGR, which is Buffalo’s sports radio station…..so he could get the start tonight over Miller and Lalime, who Ruff has no faith in.

     

    Been a Habs fan since I was in 2nd grade and sat behind Patrick Roy at the Aud.


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