The last time Buffalo ventured into the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston on November 12, they were riding a four-game winning streak and sat in fifth-place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 10-5-0. Things were much different when they boarded a plane for Montreal after that game.
The Bruins had rocked the Sabres with a 6-2 loss, and a controversial hit delivered by Boston’s Milan Lucic left goaltender Ryan Miller
with a concussion that caused him to miss eight games.
The Sabres are 21-23-8 since that night, but a recent run of 7-1-2 in their past 10 games has vaulted them to within two points of the final playoff spot in the East.
Miller has been a huge reason for the team’s recent success. Questions regarding his health have disappeared during a stretch that has seen him make 10 straight starts while playing in 21 consecutive games. (Miller’s only non-start during this streak was a relief appearance during a 7-2 loss in Philadelphia on February 16.) It’s been 50 days since Miller last watched an entire game from the bench – January 18 in Chicago.
The NHL’s reigning First Star of the week is 7-1-1 in his last nine games with a .949 save percentage and a 1.65 goals against average; and 12-3-3 in his last 18 games with a 1.84 GAA and a .939 save %.
These stellar numbers have left head coach Lindy Ruff with an interesting dilemma as they return to the scene of the November crime. Does he start Miller for the 11th straight game, in front of what will likely be a raucous Boston crowd? Or does he give him a break and opt for Jhonas Enroth
, who is 0-1-2 with a 2.68 GAA in four career games against the Bruins? (As a comparison: Miller is 22-6-7 in 35 career games versus Boston, with a 2.53 GAA and .917 save %)
Ruff wasn’t available to the media today as the Sabres held an optional morning skate following last night’s 3-2 overtime win over Carolina. (This is Buffalo’s fifth game in eight days, and second of a stretch that has them playing three in four.) But even if Ruff was to talk to the media this morning, the chances of him revealing his starting goaltender on a game day are about as good as me choosing a vacation in Winnipeg over a trip to Disney World.
Following last night’s game, Miller downplayed the reaction to his comments to reporters after Monday’s 3-1 loss in Winnipeg. “As you can tell, I’m tired from this trip,” Miller said while standing in front of stall at the MTS Centre. “I can barely talk right now.”
Miller said those words were spoken in the moment, and don’t reflect his current state of mind.
“I’m fine. We’ll see how everything plays out here. Lindy will want to get a plan together. I’ll get as much rest as possible. If they need me to play, I’ll play. We’ll go from there,” Miller explained. “I think this all kind of spun out of me saying I was exhausted or something like that. It was three in four at the tail end of a road trip where we played four games, so I was commenting on that. We had a chance to travel without any practice and get some rest.
“We do this for a living; we’ve done this a lot. I sat on the couch for I don’t know how many hours, just putting food in my mouth and watching mindless television. That usually does the trick.”
SABRES at BRUINS
-Fifth of six meetings between the Sabres and Bruins this season.
-Last meeting: Buffalo defeated Boston, 2-1, in Buffalo on Feb. 24.
-The teams meet next on Saturday, Apr. 7 in Boston for the last game of the season.
-The Sabres are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games vs. the Bruins; 4-5-1 on the road.
-This is the 262nd game all-time between Buffalo and Boston; Buffalo leads the series with a 114-108-39 record; Buffalo is 44-67-18 all-time against the Bruins on the road.STORYLINES
-The Sabres are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, tying Pittsburgh (8-2-0) and Dallas (7-1-2) for most points among all NHL teams in their last 10 games.
-Buffalo enters tonight’s game two points out of a playoff spot after beginning the day on Feb. 17 in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and 10 points out.
-The Sabres are 9-4-4 against the Northeast Division this season, including a 2-1-1 record against the Bruins.THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Buffalo has faced Boston more than any other team in franchise history, with 261 games played between the two clubs… Buffalo is 26-3-2 when allowing two or fewer goals and 22-4-3 when scoring three or more… The Sabres are 13-4-3 with Corey Tropp
in the lineup.LET'S PLAY TWO
Tonight’s game wraps up Buffalo’s 19th of a league-high 21 sets of back-to-back games this season after last night’s 3-2 overtime win vs. CAR. The Sabres are 12-7-0 in the first game and 6-7-5 in the second. Buffalo’s points breakdown in back-to-back sets is as follows: four points (3), three points (2), two points (9), one point (3) and zero points (1).