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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres

Selected as a representative for the NHL / NHLPA’s latest workshop, Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller has one objective in mind:

Safety first.

Chosen as one of nine panelists for the Goalie Equipment Working Group - along with fellow goaltenders Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils) and Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders), forwards Dany Heatley (Ottawa Senators) and Mike Cammalleri (Los Angeles Kings) and NHL representatives Doug Risebrough (Minnesota Wild), Garth Snow (New York Islanders) and Brett Hull / Jim Rutherford (Dallas Stars) - Miller believes the league should err on the side of caution when it comes to keeping netminders protected.

”I feel like I’m a pretty analytical guy so I’ll listen to what everybody has to say and their opinions and hopefully they will listen to mine as well,” Miller said of the group set to meet on June 11 in Toronto.

”I just want to make sure the goalies are looked out for mainly because a lot of the talk is always, first-things-first, they want to trim everything down, make everything smaller. I just want to make sure that everything is done in a safe way.”

Miller found out first-hand the effects of not having proper equipment, quite literally, in the 2005-06 season after the league reduced the size of pads following the NHL lockout.

Attempting to stop a shot with his blocker in practice, the puck hit Miller’s hand resulting in a fractured thumb and 18 missed games (Nov. 2 - Dec. 8).

“I thought it could have been prevented if they had done more testing [on equipment],” Miller said. “If they want us to play 70 games a season as a starting goaltender that year, [we need to] have adequate protection to play night in and night out.

“This is an opportunity for me to give back to the game and something for me obviously to look out for the goaltenders.”

Miller is keeping the fans in mind as well, arguing that the formula calling for less equipment and more goals, and leading to more exciting hockey may not be entirely accurate.

“I think more chances is what I would argue is the best way to go,” Miller said. “Maintain a high level of refereeing and penalty standards to keep the ice open… Then the games will be exciting, it will come down to a goaltender’s skill and it will come down to a team playing a good system.”

But it is not just the forwards Miller refers to; goaltenders must abide by the rules as well. Citing oversized equipment as the main concern, Miller wants the league to also look at netminders who are “exploiting the situation” in an era of smaller pads.

“Obviously we’re all in competition with each other but we should all be equally protected and our style of play respected,” Miller said. “Everyone should be on a level playing field… no one should have an edge over anyone.”

How much progress will be made remains to be seen.

“We can only make a recommendation but hopefully working as a group, and there are a few forwards involved, we can get our point across,” he said.

The Goalie Equipment Working Group will “examine the configuration and dimensions of goaltender equipment with respect to safety and performance,” according to the NHL. “If the working group decides alterations to the rules governing goaltender equipment are warranted, and will not jeopardize the safety of the goalies, these recommendations will be forwarded to the Competition Committee for consideration.”

Miller is also a member of the NHLPA Competition Committee set to meet on June 13 in Toronto. According to the Players Association Web site, the group will “evaluate and make recommendations on matters relating to the game and the way the game is played."

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