Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week after going 2-0-1 with a 1.55 goals against average and a .961 save percentage for the week ending Dec. 29. He stopped a career-high 49 shots Sunday night in Buffalo’s 2-1 shootout win over the Washington Capitals.
The Sabres will stick with their goaltending schedule and give Miller the night off against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Jhonas Enroth will get the nod in Winnipeg.
“You have to project further out and we need Jhonas to be ready,” Miller said after practice at Riverside Ice Arena on Monday. “And it’s an Olympic year. We’re factoring in the possibility of more travel and playing time for maybe both of us. The idea is to balance it out a little more.”
As far as the Olympics go, Miller reiterated that he has not yet heard from Team USA regarding the Winter Olympic roster. USA Hockey is expected to announce its roster on New Year's Day. Enroth is a candidate to back up Henrik Lundqvist for Team Sweden.
While Enroth has only one win this season, Miller has been impressed with the 25-year-old netminder’s play.
“I think he’s handled it really well in kind of a situation where I thought he’s had some good nights and he just hasn’t gotten the win,” he said. “But I thought he’s played really solid.”
Miller has played as many as 76 games in a season. Since the team can rely on Enroth to give them quality starts, Miller is able receive proper rest to keep his energy levels up to where he feels they need to be.
“Learning over the years, you want to play as much as possible, but you have to know there are moments where you have to build yourself up off the ice,” Miller said. “You have to take a little bit of a mental break and do your work in the gym, do your work on the ice that maybe you don’t do as much if you’re playing.”
The Sabres are clicking at home, having won their past four games at First Niagara Center. But they’ll try to find a way to mimic that success on the road this week.
Buffalo will embark on a two-game road trip that starts on New Year’s Eve in Winnipeg. After the game, they’ll travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Thursday. They’ll return home for a date with the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
The Sabres have played both the Jets and Wild already this season at First Niagara Center. While they’ve gotten a look at what those teams are about, Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said that these next two games will certainly have a different vibe.
“They probably want to set a tone in their home buildings, so they’re going to be tough games,” he said. “We have pretty good confidence in our team. We’re playing decent right now. We can play better. We know that. So we’re going to go into those buildings and play our best.”
With Buffalo’s recent success, Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan is now looking at taking the next step in the team’s development.
“We’ve got a long ways to go. We adjusted [to] the feel-good period part. Now we just have to pay a little bit more attention to details,” he said. “If you look at the goaltending we have, we have pretty good goaltending. So if we play honestly in front of them, we’ll have good chances [to win].”
Brian Flynn, Steve Ott and Ville Leino did not practice. Nolan said it was a rest day for Flynn and Ott while Leino is still dealing with some effects of the flu. The Sabres are carrying 13 forwards at the moment but center Cody Hodgson is unavailable as he recovers from an upper-body injury. Hodgson has not practiced with the team since he sustained the injury on Dec. 19.
Nolan said they would dress seven defensemen if Leino is unable to play.