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Sabres sign Miller to extension

by Mike G. Morreale

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller signed a five-year contract extension that will keep him in Buffalo through the 2013-14 season.
Ryan Miller 2007-08 season highlights
Buffalo General Manager Darcy Regier has made certain All-Star goalie Ryan Miller will remain in a Sabres uniform for the foreseeable future.

Miller, who was entering the final year of his contract this season, signed a five-year extension Friday that will carry him through the 2013-14 season. In April, Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn called the signing of Miller and forward Jason Pominville to long-term deals as the team’s top priorities this summer. Pominville, a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player in 2007-08, has one year remaining on his contract.

Miller’s deal certainly makes sense, considering the goalie was Buffalo’s steady force during the 2007-08 season. Miller helped limited the opposition to a collective 2.84 goals-against average in 82 games. This came despite 78 of the 201 total man-games Buffalo lost to injury last season were from defenseman – and that doesn’t include the 80 games veteran Teppo Numminen missed after undergoing open-heart surgery in September.

In his third full season with Buffalo in 2007-08, Miller appeared in a franchise-high 76 games, going 36-27-10 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. On March 28, 2008, Miller played in his 73rd game of the season, breaking the club record for most games played in a season, which had been held by Grant Fuhr, Dominik Hasek and Martin Biron.
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“I felt good (making 76 starts) and learned a lot,’’ Miller told at the time. “A lot of thought goes into playing a lot of games, but the bottom line is winning, so as a goalie you’re always going to have pressure on you to help steer the team. For me, it’s just a matter of preparing the best way I can and learning a lot about how to play night in and night out. There are certain times when you hit the wall and eventually you’re drained but you just have to move forward and keep working. At the same time, you don’t want to use up the reserve energy tank.’’

Miller made 34 consecutive starts, from Jan. 24 to April 3, and registered a career-high three shutouts. He earned career victory No. 100 Feb. 10.

In an effort to provide help for Miller and bolster the blue line, Regier acquired defenseman Craig Rivet from the San Jose Sharks on July 4, along with a seventh-round pick in 2010, in exchange for Buffalo’s second-round picks in the 2009 and 2010 Entry Drafts. In 74 games last season, Rivet had five goals, 30 assists, 104 penalty minutes and a plus-3 rating. The club also is hopeful defensive prospects Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani will contribute on a full-time basis this season.

The team also signed 34-year-old backup goalie Patrick Lalime to a two-year contract July 1.

Miller, a 6-foot-2, 166-pound native of East Lansing, Mich., has appeared in 205 regular-season NHL games, compiling a record of 112-68-19, with a 2.69 GAA and .908 save percentage. In 2006-07, Miller was named to the NHL All-Star Game and established a franchise record for victories, going 40-16-6 with a 2.73 GAA and .911 save percentage.

He was selected in the fifth round (No. 138) of the 1999 Entry Draft. He won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award in 2004-05 as the American Hockey League’s top goaltender, as well as top goalie honors in the 2004 and 2005 AHL All-Star Game skills competitions. While attending Michigan State, he garnered the 2001 Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top collegiate player.

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