The Buffalo Sabres are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, but staying there won't be easy without their top goaltender.
In their first game since Ryan Miller's injury, the Sabres try to continue their playoff push when they host the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night.
Miller is out indefinitely after sustaining a high left ankle sprain in the third period of Saturday's 4-2 victory at home over the New York Rangers. The injury occurred when Miller was upended behind his own net by New York's Scott Gomez.
"It's a tough blow for us," said center Derek Roy, who led Buffalo (31-23-6) with a goal and two assists.
Miller said tests taken following the game were negative, but he's not sure how much time he'll miss.
The Sabres currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the tightly-packed East - just one point behind fifth-place Montreal and one point ahead of ninth-place Carolina. They can ill afford an extended absence by Miller, who ranks third in the league in wins (29) and is tied for fifth in shutouts (five).
"There's no timetable," Miller said Monday while wearing a walking boot. "We just have to see how it starts reacting."
He acknowledged that some of the swelling had gone down, but the ankle was still a little achy.
Veteran backup Patrick Lalime, signed as an insurance policy in the offseason, will take over starting duties.
Lalime allowed both goals on 13 shots against the Rangers He is 0-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average in his last five appearances.
"I've felt good in practice, so I just want to carry it out into the games," said Lalime, who is 2-7-1 with a 3.17 GAA in 11 games this season. "We'll take it one little step at a time, then build on it."
Lalime's last start was also against the Ducks (29-27-5). He made 34 saves in Buffalo's 3-2 loss in Anaheim on Feb. 2, falling to 6-3-0 with a 2.40 GAA and one shutout in his career versus the Ducks.
The Feb. 2 meeting was the Sabres' second straight loss to the Ducks after winning the previous six meetings. Buffalo still has three wins and two ties since its last home loss to Anaheim, a 7-2 setback on Jan. 1, 1999.
Similarly to the Sabres in the East, Anaheim is battling for one of the final playoff spots in the West. The Ducks are 10th in the West, but only one point behind eighth-place Minnesota and six points out of fifth place.
"We know what's ahead of us and who's ahead of us in the standings," said Anaheim right wing Corey Perry, who had a goal against the Sabres earlier this month. "We're chasing some teams that we're playing next. We have to have the two points every night."
Perry recorded a goal and two assists Saturday, when the Ducks snapped a three-game losing streak by winning 5-2 at Columbus. Anaheim bounced back after opening its season-high six-game road trip with a 5-2 defeat at Detroit on Friday.
Perry has four goals and four assists in his last seven games.